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Synod on Synodality next steps: Pope to choose ‘big questions’ for further study

Pope Francis will provide input on the “big questions” to focus on at the next session of the Synod on Synodality next October, the Vatican revealed in a new document Tuesday.

Examples include questions related to the ordination of women to the diaconate, revisions to canon law pertaining to the Oriental Churches, and a review of the Vatican document Ratio Fundamentalis, which serves as the basis for the formation of priests and deacons.

Those were among the topics deemed “matters of great relevance” that came up during the synod’s first session in October and require consideration “at the level of the whole Church and in collaboration with the dicasteries of the Roman Curia,” according to the new document.

A list of these topics will be sent to Pope Francis for review, and the pope will indicate sometime in January which topics require further study. The new document does not detail who the experts are or how they will be selected.

Released on Dec. 12 by the General Secretariat of the Synod, the Vatican office coordinating the ongoing synodal consultative process, the four-page document, titled “Towards October 2024,” details “the steps to be taken in the months between now and the Second Session of the Synodal Assembly.” 

The first monthlong session of the Synod on Synodality, a multiyear process initiated by Pope Francis to enhance the communion, participation, and mission of the Church, concluded on Oct. 29 with the finalization of a 42-page synthesis report. The October 2024 session is expected to produce a final report, which will be presented to Pope Francis for his consideration in issuing any related teaching. 

The new document calls for feedback on the synthesis document from local and national levels. Emphasizing that this is not to be construed as a “a question of starting the synodal process from scratch or repeating the process of listening and consultation undertaken during the first stage,” it notes that “each local Church is invited to focus on those aspects that enable it to make a contribution in the light of its own situation, character, and experience, sharing good practices that represent visible and concrete signs of synodality.”

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According to the document, this process will be a moment for dioceses to reflect on the “fundamental questions” that are to be guided by the central aim of the synod’s central question: “How can we be a synodal Church in mission?”

“The local Churches are also invited to go through the entire Synthesis Report and collect the requests that are most consonant with their situation,” the document states. “On this basis, they will be able to promote the most appropriate initiatives to involve the whole people of God.”

Once this process is complete, these various reports submitted by the dioceses will be compiled into an eight-page document and sent to the General Secretariat of the Synod by May 15, 2024, forming the basis of the Instrumentum Laboris (or working document) that will be used by assembly members of the synod’s second session in October 2024. 

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