04 October 2023, The Tablet

Synod and Laudate Deum – updates from Rome

Live blog with Christopher Lamb on the Synod assembly and the release of Laudate Deum.

Synod and Laudate Deum – updates from Rome

Pope Francis told delegates that the synod was not a parliament or a “meeting of friends to resolve some things”.
Associated Press / Alamy

A busy day in Rome. We will post links and updates as they come in.
Time 18:20
Cardinal Grech closes the synod session, and the participants leave their tables.
Tomorrow, it all begins again! Thanks for following today, and keep an eye on www.thetablet.co.uk for more updates during the synod. 
Picture: Associated Press/Alamy
Time 18:00
New Cardinal Grzegorz Rys, the Archbishop of Lodz in Poland, takes the floor and speaks about his local synod process.  
He said it brought together very different groups, including those who support the extraordinary form of Latin rite and leaders of charismatic communities. Some said it was “the first time in my life I can speak in the Church and that I can be listened to”, although others said they “do not expect very much” from the process.
The cardinal says that in Europe, many fear synodality and think it will destroy the hierarchical nature of the Church.
He then quotes a layperson who said during the synod discussion that they are “not afraid of hierarchy”, but only those clergy who leave aside their formation and ignore the word of God. The layperson said they “are afraid of their power in the Church”.
Synodality, he says, is vital for evangelisation, and that there were some in his local synod who do not go to church. But the church’s language needs to be relatable.
He has now set up parish councils to continue the synodal experience. 
Time 17:30
We are back. Cardinal Hollerich has introduced the first round of discussions for the synod.
He said that for the next few days, participants should be focussed on the following question: 
“Starting from the journey of the local Churches to which we each belong and from the contents of the Instrumentum laboris [working document], which distinctive signs of a synodal Church emerge with greater clarity and which deserve greater recognition or should be particularly highlighted or deepened?”
The cardinal says the synod participants must arrive prepared for the small group work and sets out what will happen.
“In the morning, in the Circuli Minores [small groups] we will begin with a moment of mutual listening: each person will have four minutes to communicate what is most important to him or her. It will be possible to deliver the text of your speech, preferably in electronic format, to the secretariat, so that it will enter into the assembly materials.”
He goes on: “Four minutes is a short time, and I am sure each of us would have enough to share to fill a much longer slot. Therefore, each of us is invited to choose what seems most important and most meaningful, what they feel emerges most strongly from their memory.
“I invite everyone – if you have not already done so – to carve out some time for reflection and prayer this evening, or tomorrow morning for those who get up early, so as to focus on what they want to communicate in their opening intervention in the group.
“The time each person invests in preparation will be an important contribution to the quality of our common work.”
He urges them to reflect on the Road to Emmaus in Luke’s gospel. 
Time 16:45
Cardinal Hollerich finishes by saying the aim of the synod assembly is to offer a “road map” for the way ahead, and to point out where further study is needed. Now the synod takes a break… Phew…
Time 16:40
And now Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the relator general (co-ordinator) of the synod discussions.
He says the seating in the hall is not set out in a “hierarchical way” but is aimed to ensure “genuine sharing and discernment” and mirrors the synodal path that began in 2021. The round tables remind delegates that “none of us is the star” of the process, but the Holy Spirit is guiding the event. The Church is not made up “simply of priests and bishops”.
Bishops, he says, who were not active in earlier synodal dialogues but nevertheless were elected to take part in this assembly, “may face challenges at the beginning”.
But he emphasises the importance of walking together. “The so-called progressives cannot look at Christ without seeing the so-called conservative,” he explains.
He says that to grasp the mission of the Church “we need to broaden our vision” and look out to the world. The cardinal says that Francis has spelt out the evils “plaguing our world” including climate change (he cites Laudate Deum), migration and “so many dying on our Mediterranean sea”.
He also includes the many wars taking place in the world, the extreme polarisation in our society and “our Church”, and excessively consumerist lifestyles.
Cardinal Hollerich says the synod is not a parliament where often a “narrow majority” decides what the whole population must accept, instead the synod “should not be a battle between a or b”.
He says the “Holy Spirit brings us to new positions, leaving a or b behind”. He defines the synod as the “common work of discernment”.
Cardinal Hollerich and Cardinal Grech at their table with Pope Francis. Picture: Associated Press/Alamy
Time 16:30
Cardinal Mario Grech speaks. He is the general secretary of the synod office.
The synod assembly is called to be a strong sign of “synodality”, modelling listening and seeking to understand the will of God for the Church today, he says.
The “harmonious diversity” in the hall should be at the service of the assembly, and the cardinal says that everyone involved is there to respond to the question about the steps that need to be taken to become a “more synodal Church”.
Time 16:20
More from Francis.
The Pope says one of the things that saddens the Holy Spirit is “vicious gossip” and chatter, and that this is the most common disease in the Church.
“If you don’t agree with your bishop, tell him, don’t talk about him behind his back,” he says.
He adds that it’s important to discern between voices that come from the Holy Spirit and “worldly voices”.
Francis says the synod’s priority is about listening “so please help make journalists understand this and journalists will help people understand this”.
He points out that in past synods the media narrative focussed on single issues: in the 2014 and 2015 family synods it was about giving communion to the divorced and remarried, while in the 2019 Amazon synod it was married priests.
Now the speculation is about ordination.
“I ask you communicators carry out your function well. The Church and the people of goodwill, people should understand the priority is listening.”
Delegates listen to Pope Francis through their monitors. Picture: Associated Press/Alamy
Time 16:00
Pope Francis speaks.
Francis says bishops across the world had requested a reflection on the theme of synodality, hence the decision to hold the synod on the current theme.
He emphasises the synod is not a parliament or a “meeting of friends to resolve some things”. The Holy Spirit is the protagonist of the gathering – reflections from St Basil on this topic have been given to the delegates. The Pope asks people to pray and reflect on them.
The Pope talks about the Church as a symphony but insists that harmony does not mean “synthesis” – it means “communion”, and if everyone agrees then it means the Holy Spirit has been “left outside”.
People in the Church may be separated by geography but are united through the Holy Spirit in communion.
Synod delegates arrive in the Paul VI Hall. Picture: Associated Press/Alamy
Time 15:45
The synod working session is underway.
Patriarch Ibrahim Sidrak, the Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, a president delegate of the synod, speaks first:
“At first [the synod process] it was not easy, many of us felt a bit disoriented…In previous synods we were travelling down familiar paths…but this time, the synodal assembly was prepared by a consultation of the People of God.”
He said it took place “without an itinerary or pre-determined path”. But “while it was not easy on the one hand, the preparation for the synod was a fantastic experience thanks to the Holy Spirit who helped us live synodality before we discussed it.”
He asks the Holy Spirit to “purify our ideas” and ambitions.
Time 15:30
In his homily to open the synod this morning, Pope Francis warned against the temptations “of being a rigid Church – a customs post – which arms itself against the world and looks backward, of being a lukewarm Church, which surrenders to the fashions of the world, of being a tired Church, turned in on itself.”
Synod delegates including Sr Nathalie Becquart, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich and Cardinal Mario Grech with Pope Francis. Picture: Christopher Lamb
Time 15:15
Back to the synod.
Delegates in the Paul VI Hall. Picture: Christopher Lamb
One of the striking elements of the synod gathering is the arrangement of round tables in the Paul VI Synod Hall. This has never been done before. The construction of the tables aims to ensure that “conversations in the spirit” can take place.
In the past, participants gathered in a theatre-style assembly room, but the focus is now on listening and collective discernment. It’s also part of the Pope’s desire to ensure the synod does not become a polarised event.
Everyone is seated at tables with electronic tablets, according to several people inside the hall. They told me that if you want to speak, you make a request and are put in a queue – there is a time limit for interventions, and if you talk for too long, you will be cut off. Each small group has a secretary (pre-appointed by the synod office) who keeps notes, and the group will vote for a moderator. A facilitator to help the discussion is also present.  
Time 13:20
Christopher Lamb comments on Laudate Deum:
The release of the apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum is the latest move by Pope Francis to try and influence individuals and governments across the world to take action on the environment. 
In 2015, with his encyclical Laudato si’, Francis issued a groundbreaking document which developed Catholic social teaching. He did so by making protecting the planet a moral issue and rejecting any notion that because God has given “dominion” to humanity over the earth and therefore encourages “the unbridled exploitation of nature”.
Francis released his 2015 encyclical with the express attempt of trying to influence the Paris climate change discussions (COP21), and his latest intervention is aimed to try and influence the COP28 meeting in Dubai. It is rumoured that in 2015 the Pope telephoned the then-president of Nicaragua to encourage him to sign up to the Paris deal.
Laudato si’ was well-received by non-Catholics but some Church officials have in the past lamented that his teaching in this area was not known enough among Catholics, particularly in the United States.
But Francis’ concern about the environment is rooted in spirituality more than politics. The Pope has cited the teaching of his namesake, St Francis of Assisi, to push forward his concern for the environment with the title Laudato si’ taken from St Francis’ canticle “Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” (“Praise be to you, my Lord”). 
Laudate Deum (“Praise God”) was released on the feast of the 12th century saint, and the Pope, explaining the title, said the phrase “Praise God for all his creatures”, “was the message that Saint Francis of Assisi proclaimed by his life, his canticles and all his actions.” 
Time 13:00
The Bishop of Salford, John Arnold, the lead bishop for environment matters at the bishops’ conference of England and Wales, responds to Laudate Deum
“I thoroughly welcome the timely and prophetic words of Pope Francis in Laudate Deum who once again implores the international community to alter the path of destruction down which we are heading.
“He reminds us that we should praise God for all His creatures and that our care for our common home is intimately connected with our care for each other.
“As Pope Francis explains, the decisions we make can have grave consequences, not only for those who are still living, but the generations to follow.  We have a duty to take action to look after our planet. ‘What is being asked of us is nothing other than a certain responsibility for the legacy we will leave behind, once we pass from this world.’ (Laudate Deum 18)”
Time 12:30
Pope Francis has released Laudate Deum, a call for global action to tackle climate change. It’s a follow-up to his landmark 2015 environment encyclical, Laudato si’.
Here are the key points:
The Pope explains that he felt compelled to write the follow-up document because, in the eight years since Laudato si’, “I have realised that our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point.”
Francis reminds Catholics they are responsible for caring for God’s creation and doing what they can to protect the planet. He encourages a change in lifestyles, pointing out that emissions per individual in the United States are two times greater than those in China.
He criticises climate-change deniers and sceptics and says the climate crisis does not interest “the great economic powers, whose concern is with the greatest profit possible at minimal cost and in the shortest amount of time”.  Francis says he felt compelled to emphasise the climate emergency “because of certain dismissive and scarcely reasonable opinions that I encounter, even within the Catholic Church”.
The Pope is calling for more decisive co-ordinated action between governments and for international agreements on protecting the environment to be implemented. Francis says that COP28 in Dubai later this year needs to begin a “new process marked by three requirements: that it be drastic, intense and count on the commitment of all”.
Time 11:00
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Holy See's former doctrine prefect, arrives for the synod assembly. The German cardinal has been highly critical of the synod, even describing it as a "hostile takeover" of the Church. 
The Tablet has learnt, however, that the cardinal did not attend the pre-synod retreat for participants, which Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, the English former Master of Dominicans, led.
Several synod participants were absent from the retreat, including, I am told, the Polish bishops. 
Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed that the synod is about spiritual discernment, so he decided that a three-day retreat should precede the synod assembly discussions. 
Time 10:45
Following the Mass in St Peter’s, Synod participants arrive in the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI hall. There are 464 taking part, of which 81 are women; 365 are voting delegates (including women).
This morning, they will be given procedural information about how the synod works, and this afternoon, Pope Francis, Cardinal Mario Grech (synod secretary-general) and Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich (the synod co-ordinator) will address the gathering. Outside the hall, I saw some of the delegates from England and Wales – Archbishop John Wilson and Fr Jan Nowotnik – entering the hall. Participants were greeted by a salute from two Swiss guards as they entered. 
To read more about the gathering, here is my pre-synod lookahead article.
Synod delegates process into the Synod Hall, Rome. Picture: Christopher Lamb.
Time 09:20
I suppose we should have guessed it. It seems there may be an additional attendee at the Synod in Rome – the “father of lies” – making his usual mischief. At least, that is, according to America magazine. Read Fr Louis Camelo of Chicago, author of The Devil You Don’t Know: Recognizing and Resisting Evil in Everyday Life.  
Time 09:17
Christopher Lamb comments: 
Francis' quote from John XXIII in his homily this morning is significant: the synod has been described as an event with the potential to be as transformative as Vatican II and which seeks to implement the council's vision. The ecclesiology of the council, with its focus on the Church as the People of God, is the underlying vision of the synod. The church's hierarchy is both a part of and in service to the people.
During his homily, the Pope also referenced his namesake St Francis of Assisi, and cited the commission given to the Franciscan order founder to “go and repair my church”. The Pope said that the synod shows the church is always in need of purification and of being “repaired”.
He pointed out that St Francis lived “in a time of great struggles and divisions, between temporal and religious powers, between the institutional Church and heretical currents, between Christians and other believers, did not criticise or lash out at anyone”. But the Pope said St Francis “took up only the weapons of the Gospel: humility and unity, prayer and charity”. He called on the Church today to do the same. 
Time 09:07
Today, Pope Francis publishes a new document calling all to urgent action on our planetary crisis. The pope’s clear moral leadership should inspire the government of Prime Minister Sunak to do better. The new papal document, Laudate Deum, stands on more than 30 years of Catholic teaching on climate change and ecology. Catholic interest in climate change is not a fad, but rather a long-standing concern rooted in core values. While Pope Francis is often painted as a left-of-centre leader, within the Church this is not an issue of left or right.
Time 08:50
In his homily to open the synod Pope Francis said the gathering is not a “polarised parliament” or place for political battles. The aim, he says, is to listen to the Holy Spirit, who “often shatters our expectations to create something new”. He said: “Here we do not need a purely natural vision, made up of human strategies, political calculations or ideological battles. We are not here to carry out a parliamentary meeting or a plan of reformation. No. We are here to walk together with the gaze of Jesus, who blesses the Father and welcomes those who are weary and oppressed.”
He also quoted John XXIII's opening speech at the Second Vatican Council: “It is necessary first of all that the Church should never depart from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers. But at the same time she must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and new forms of life introduced into the modern world which have opened new avenues to the Catholic apostolate.”
Time 08:30
Good morning from the Vatican. It’s a busy day ahead with the opening of the synod assembly and the release of Pope Francis’ document on the environment, Laudate Deum.  This live blog will bring you updates as they happen.
Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St Peter's Square, along with the new cardinals he created at a consistory on 30 September, to open the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The synod delegates and participants – which include lay women and men – processed in to St Peter’s at the start of the Mass.  

St Peter’s Square, Rome preparing for the opening of the Synod on Synodality and the launch of Laudate Deum. Picture: Christopher Lamb.

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