26 September 2023, The Tablet

Preparations and prayers on the eve of the synod

Cardinal Mario Grech has asked bishops to include a solemn blessing for the synod at the end of Masses on Sunday.

Preparations and prayers on the eve of the synod

Pope Francis will be joined by leaders from Orthodox and Protestant denominations for a prayer service in St Peter’s Square on Saturday.
Vatican Media/CNA

The Ecumenical Patriarch and the Archbishop of Canterbury will be among the Church leaders to join Pope Francis at a prayer vigil in St Peter’s Square on Saturday, to entrust the forthcoming synod to the Holy Spirit.

Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop Justin Welby and ten other leaders of Orthodox and Protestant denominations are due to attend, along with several of the fraternal delegates to the synod.

Archbishop Welby said that it was “an opportunity for all of us to come together and inspire change”.

The service, organised by the ecumenical Taizé community, follows celebrations for the cross-denominational Season of Creation and a series of workshops for young adults designed to promote Christian unity.

Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general for the synod office, wrote to bishops asking that they include a solemn blessing for the synod written by his secretariat at the end of Masses on Sunday, “asking the Lord to enlighten our hearts with the power of His life-giving Spirit so we might discern and do His will”.

The synod begins on 4 October, following a retreat for delegates led by Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP and the Benedictine Abbess Maria Angelini.

On 21 September, the Vatican published the schedule and final list of participants for what is formally the sixteenth Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, with the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission”.

The 363 voting delegates include two bishops from mainland China, whom Pope Francis selected from a list approved by the Beijing authorities, their attendance confirmed close to the fifth anniversary of the Vatican’s agreement with China on the appointment of bishops.

Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun was consecrated in 2010, while Bishop Anthony Yao Shun of Jining was the first bishop consecrated after the 2018 agreement.

Cardinal-elect Stephen Chow of Hong Kong and Bishop Norbert Pu of Kiayi in Taiwan will also attend.  Chow is one of the 19 bishops (and two priests) to be created cardinals at a consistory on 30 September.

The synod delegates will be joined by 75 facilitator and spiritual assistants, including Professor Anna Rowlands and Dr Austen Ivereigh from the UK.

Speaking last week, Prof Rowlands said that the synod’s focus “is on the ‘who’ of the Church, on the question of the way in which our life itself is focused on mission to the world”.

“The Church is the only institution that exists not fundamental for its own members, but for the sake of the conversion and the salvation of all,” she said.

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