Friday Synod briefing: Focus on migrants, women, poor

Friday Synod briefing: Focus on migrants, women, poor

Paolo Ruffini, President of the Commission for Information of the Synodal Assembly, holds a second briefing for journalists and outlines the topics addressed in the small working groups and the free interventions, which include formation, the Church as a family, and abuse.

By Salvatore Cernuzio

Among themes highlighted at the Synod, as of Friday, were the formation “of everyone,” starting with seminarians, then of priests, laity, and catechists; the Church as a family, where everyone has a place; prayer; the role of women, of laity, of ordained and non-ordained ministries; the centrality of the Eucharist and the Word of God; and the importance of the poor “as an option for the Church.” The dramas of migration, abuse, of Christians living in conditions of persecution and suffering, were also at the forefront. Participants offered a round of applause to Ukrainians, for their moving story of suffering during the war.

These details were shared by Paolo Ruffini, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, and President of the Commission for Information of the Synodal Assembly, during his daily briefing for journalists in the Holy See Press Office. 

The Prefect’s observations stemmed from the work that took place between yesterday afternoon and this morning, of the 351 members of the General Assembly of the Synod on Synodality, divided into 35 small working groups.

Dr. Ruffini commenced his daily rendezvous with journalists assuring them “We will do our best every day to give you everything we have.”

18 reports and 22 individual interventions

Yesterday afternoon, Dr. Ruffini explained, the meeting continued in the small working groups, which in the evening “concluded the first part of their discussion.”

Instead, this morning’s session, at which Pope Francis was present, was divided into two moments: the first with 18 reports from the so-called “rapporteurs” of the different groups in the assembly; the second moment featured 22 individual interventions.

Each was allotted three minutes in this phase, “a bit more compressed than the subsequent modules where the length of time for each intervention will be four minutes.” After every four interventions, a pause was observed for silence and prayer.

A book on the Pope’s interventions 

In the afternoon, the work continued with the third General Congregation.

This afternoon each of the members, Dr. Ruffini announced, would be given a book published by LEV (in Italian but with English and Spanish translations) that collects two interventions: one by Pope Francis and one by the then-Cardinal Bergoglio on the themes of holiness and corruption, with a yet unpublished preface.

Sheila Pires: diversity and the desire to walk together

The different small working groups scheduled to meet in an atmosphere described by Sheila Pires, secretary of the Commission on Information, as “very synodal”: “People are beginning to get to know each other… We are really walking together.” An atmosphere, above all, of “joy” although, of course, “there is also no lack of tension.”

The most interesting aspect, the Mozambican with a long experience of Catholic communications in Southern Africa, said is the fact that people from different continents come together in each group: “For example, in my group there are people from Asia, Africa, North America, and Europe. There is diversity, there is a fraternal spirit, there is the desire to walk together.”

Inclusiveness and bonds of friendship

Ms. Pires, like Dr. Ruffini, listed some of the themes that have emerged in these last two sessions, emphasizing, in particular, a reflection on “the Church as a family that welcomes everyone.”

“This,” Ruffini said, “has been one of the recurring themes. Then, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, as well as the recognition of young people and the importance of women’s participation. In this regard, this morning the congregation was opened by a religious sister: “We try to be as inclusive as possible,” she stressed.

Everything is part of this “process” in which the “priority is listening,” as the Pope said at the opening of the work. Listening but also “learning to listen,” are the guiding principles of these initial days of the Synod on Synodality, interspersed with several moments of prayer: pauses – Sheila said – that help with reflection and discernment.

And also to strengthen the “bonds of friendship,” echoed Dr. Ruffini: “There are friendships born in the small working groups, we met and dedicated ourselves to trying to understand what the Church needs.” “It was said that certainly there were and always are difficulties but that many barriers will fall because the point of reference will be the flesh of the suffering Christ,” he added.

Topics discussed

Even more in detail, the Prefect of Communication explained that in a small working group, the focus was on the theme of “a revision of Church structures such as the Code of Canon Law, the size of the Curia and, again, formation.” Focus also on the theme of the East-West relationship, citing John Paul II and his historic phrase about the Church having to breathe with “two lungs.”

As for the phenomenon of migration, the need for the accompaniment of migrants and the service of the bishop as pastor, “fundamental in this accompaniment,” was reiterated. While on the role of women, the importance of promoting the role of women in the Church and of their active participation in the different processes was reiterated.

The same concern also addressed regarding young people and the poor, for whom it was urged to overcome a certain “slowness.”

“Repairing the Church”

Among the various interventions, there was a quotation from the San Damiano Crucifix, a copy of which is placed in the Atrium of the Paul VI Hall.

“The theme of repairing the Church emerged. (…) Those who put themselves at service repair the Church, serve the diagnosis and prognosis and read the signs of the times with a pure heart,” Dr. Ruffini explained.

“The importance of stripping ourselves of everything that does not resemble Christ, as a Church and as believers” and of everything that “does not conform to the Gospel,” was also stressed as was “among the points of criticality” the risk of “hoarding power instead of the need to live service.”

Synod members agreed in affirming that “synodality is part of the DNA of the Church,” and the whole assembly turned their thoughts “to those who were unable to attend the Synod, either because they were persecuted or due to serious reasons of crisis in the world.”

Thoughts to Ukraine

Above all, attention was turned to the “Church that suffers” in Ukraine: “A mention was made that elicited applause,” Dr. Ruffini said, explaining that this was a way to “feel in communion” with “the people at war and with the Ukrainian Christians” who continue to suffer. 

Another round of applause, but for different reasons, was dedicated to Sister Letizia Salazar, who is celebrating her birthday today, and to Archbishop Charles Scicluna, on the anniversary of his episcopal ordination. Gestures that contribute to creating an atmosphere of “familiarity” in the assembly.

Cardinal Müller’s interview

Several questions were directed to the prefect during the briefing, more than one about the participation of Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect emeritus of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, concerning a U.S. television program yesterday on the work of the Synod.

According to some journalists, the interview jarred with the Pope’s instruction to Synod members to observe a “fasting of the public word” during these weeks. Some also asked if “punishments” are even planned.

Dr. Ruffini responded with a joke, “By whom, by me?” then explained that there is “discernment in silence. There is no gendarme who punishes you… It is an assembly of brothers and sisters who have given themselves a time of suspension. There is a personal discernment requested by the Pope to the members, and also to you in explaining what we are talking about.” And this “discernment is left to each person.”

Deborah Castellano Lubov contributed to this article


Published On: 06/10/2023