Ruffini on Synod: Church pausing to profoundly listen to one other

Ruffini on Synod: Church pausing to profoundly listen to one other

Paolo Ruffini, President of the Commission for Information of the Synodal Assembly, holds a briefing for journalists to explain the methodology of the Working Groups (Circuli Minores), and foresees press conferences after each module with Synod participants.

By Salvatore Cernuzio and Deborah Castellano Lubov

The Synod’s 35 working groups, or ‘circuli minores,’ began their work on Thursday, explained Paolo Ruffini, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, who is serving as President of the Commission for Information, whose members will be elected on 9 October. He was speaking to journalists accredited to the Holy See in the Vatican on Thursday afternoon.

In the working groups, he explained, the participants had the opportunity to get to know each other better by introducing themselves, and sharing their own experiences of synodality, and reflecting on what struck them from the others’ reflections. During the meeting with the press, Dr. Ruffini also explained various aspects of the Synod’s methodology.

Pope Francis, the Prefect highlighted, already on Wednesday provided the outline for this initial phase of the Synod’s work in his address to the first General Congregation, namely giving a priority to listening, “fasting” from speaking (especially publicly), mutual acquaintance, discernment, and respect for confidentiality. And so, the universal Catholic Church, in these four weeks of assembly at the Vatican, takes a “pause.”

This time of quiet, respectful listening, as desired by the Pope, said Dr. Ruffini, “can help the world on other fronts as well: the war, the climate crisis, to stop, to listen to one another.”

The Prefect recalled the Pope’s words of gratitude to many journalists who will be engaged this month in the work of covering the Synod and his encouragement to recognize the value of profound listening.

Biblical and Gospel-rooted ‘silence’

The “news,” said the Prefect, is just that, namely a “suspension of time,” a “silence” that allows for listening and discernment, as we see in the Bible and Gospel.

“The way in which an institution as great as the Church, allows itself a moment of silence in faith, in communion, in prayer is news,” Dr. Ruffini said during the briefing in the Holy See Press Office, the first of daily appointments with international media.

He also told journalists that press conferences will be held at the end of each module of the assembly with Synod participants.

“The way in which an institution as great as the Church allows itself a moment of silence in faith, in communion, in prayer is news”

Process of the working groups (‘circuli minores‘)

Together with Sheila Pires, Secretary of the Commission for Information and Communications Officer of the South African Bishops’ Conference, Dr. Ruffini explained – with an accompanying PowerPoint presentation – how, on a technical and methodological level, the work of the 35 Working Groups has been and will be carried out as they gather in their respective languages tables.

Currently at the center of the reflection is Section A of the Instrumentum laboris, concerning “the characteristic signs of a synodal Church” and “conversation in the Spirit.”

It represents an early stage of the Synod, so more sensitive issues listed in the same working document, and mentioned by the Pope himself, have not yet entered into the discussions on the first day of the Circles.

In the four minutes allotted to each participant, the first step was to introduce oneself, then to share the path taken by one’s own Church in the first phase of the synodal path (the consultative one), “how it started, how it evolved, the difficulties encountered, the relationship between the local Church and the universal Church.”

Briefing on Synod on Synodality

A “rapporteur” was then elected for each working group to gather the different experiences and instances and to present them to the assembly following discussion within the group. This person, elected by majority vote, drafts the report, and “will report convergences, divergences, ideas that came up,” said Dr. Ruffini.

Along with this, “anyone can speak in General Congregation and send their text to the Secretariat of the Synod,” the Prefect explained, stressing that “there is a lot of freedom,” that the atmosphere is one of “serene sharing,” and that everyone is having a profound “spiritual experience.”

He added that the experience has thus far been above all one of “communion.”

“It is not important what this or that participant says, but what the Church decides in its spirit of communion,” he said. “It is a complex process but it ensures that everyone can put their own points of view.”

The need to go step by step

“As journalists, it’s normal that we try to imagine the end of anything: it can be either the soccer game or a political election,” Dr. Ruffini said. “But you can’t give an answer as to what the end will be because we’re really only at the beginning.” As Pope Francis has always said, the Synod is a process, all the more so this one on synodality that will continue into 2024.

“Let’s try to go step by step,” urged the President of the Commission for Information, trying to make it clear that it is the very methodology of the Synod which requires a step-by-step journey.

“This is not a deliberative Synod. We are in the middle, so you cannot ask this Assembly to foreshadow the end of the next Assembly.”

Nature of the final report

The final report that will be formulated at the end of October, he went on to say, will include “convergences and divergences” but still represent not a point of arrival but “a path that we are taking.”

“It will therefore be something more like an Instrumentum laboris than the final document of past Synods,” Dr. Ruffini stressed.

“It will therefore be something more like an Instrumentum Laboris than the final document of past Synods.”

The Synod is therefore “a body,” Dr. Ruffini stressed, in which no one is excluded.

“The Working Groups are proceeding to common discernment with the active participation of each member, so that they can then offer to the whole assembly points of convergence and divergence, tensions that have emerged and questions that remain open, insights and proposals regarding concrete steps to be taken in relation to the issues addressed,” he explained.

“The members who are here are here to do this. Either we believe this, or we don’t give any value to the assembly. We are not discussing the opinions of each member. It is not a yes or no, but it is the whole Church listening and discerning.”

Briefing on Synod on Synodality


Published On : 05/10/2023