10 things to know about October’s Synod on Synodality in Rome

By Maria Wiering
(OSV News) – The eyes of the Catholic world turn to Rome Oct. 4, as the worldwide Synod of Bishops convenes on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi to focus on “synodality” and understanding what it means in terms of “communion, participation and mission” in the church. Here’s what it is, how we got here and what to expect.

– 1. The Synod on Synodality is three years in the making.
Pope Francis announced in March 2020 (at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in Italy) that the next Synod of Bishops would be held in October 2022 on the theme “For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission,” which quickly became known as the “Synod on Synodality.” In May 2021, he postponed the two-part meeting to 2023 (with a second gathering in 2024), due in part to the pandemic, and announced that it would be preceded by a two-year process.

That decision reflected Pope Francis’ vision for the Synod of Bishops outlined in the 2018 apostolic constitution “Episcopalis Communio,” including what Cardinal Mario Grech, the general secretary for the Synod of Bishops, described at the time as “transforming the Synod from an event into a process.” Pope Francis officially opened the “synodal path” with a Mass Oct. 10, 2021, with dioceses around the world following suit.

– 2. Synodality is “the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God.”
Despite the long history of synods in the church, the term “synodality” is relatively recent, emerging in church documents about two decades ago. In 2018, the topic was addressed by the International Theological Commission, which defined it as “the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God.”

Synodality was also a topic of conversation at the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment” that took place in 2018.

In the Synod on Synodality’s “vademecum,” an official handbook issued in September 2021, “synodality” is described as “the particular style that qualifies the life and mission of the hurch, expressing her nature as the People of God journeying together and gathering in assembly, summoned by the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel,” adding, “Synodality ought to be expressed in the church’s ordinary way of living and working.”

In his homily for the Mass opening the synod process, Pope Francis said, “Celebrating a synod means walking on the same road, walking together.” He said that when meeting others, Jesus would “encounter, listen and discern,” and those verbs “characterize the synod.”

“The Gospels frequently show us Jesus ‘on a journey’; he walks alongside people and listens to the questions and concerns lurking in their hearts,” he said. “He shows us that God is not found in neat and orderly places, distant from reality, but walks ever at our side. He meets us where we are, on the often rocky roads of life.”

He continued: “Today, as we begin this synodal process, let us begin by asking ourselves – all of us, pope, bishops, priests, religious and laity – whether we, the Christian community, embody this ‘style’ of God, who travels the paths of history and shares in the life of humanity. Are we prepared for the adventure of this journey? Or are we fearful of the unknown, preferring to take refuge in the usual excuses: ‘It’s useless’ or ‘We’ve always done it this way’?”

– 3. A synod is a meeting of bishops. It has ancient roots in the Catholic Church’s history and continuity in the Eastern Churches, but declined in the Latin Church. The modern Synod of Bishops was instituted near the end of Vatican II.
“Synod” has been historically interchangeable with “council,” such as the churchwide Council of Nicea or the Council of Trent, or more localized meetings, such as the Plenary Councils of Baltimore, which brought the U.S. bishops together in 1852, 1866 and 1884. The late Jesuit Father John W. O’Malley, a theologian at Georgetown University, noted in a February 2022 essay for America magazine that local councils declined in use following the First Vatican Council, which defined papal primacy, but they didn’t die out: “One of the first things that the future Pope John XXIII did when he became patriarch of Venice was to call a diocesan synod,” he wrote.

The idea for a permanent bishops’ council surfaced during the Second Vatican Council, and in 1965 St. Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops with “the function of providing information and offering advice.” “It can also enjoy the power of making decisions when such power is conferred upon it by the Roman Pontiff; in this case, it belongs to him to ratify the decisions of the Synod,” St. Paul VI wrote.

– 4. The Synod on Synodality is the 16th Ordinary Synod since the global Synod of Bishops’ institution.
Three extraordinary general assemblies have also been held, including in 2014 to complete the work of the 2015 ordinary general assembly on the family. An additional 11 special Synods of Bishops have been held to address issues facing a particular region. Among them was a special synod on America in 1997 and one on the Amazon region in 2019. Synods have regularly resulted in the pope, who serves as the synod president, writing a post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

– 5. Preparations for the Synod on Synodality sought to be the most extensive ever, with an invitation to every Catholic to provide input.
An unprecedented worldwide consultation occurred at the diocesan/national and continental levels. The synod’s two-year preparation process invited all Catholics worldwide to identify areas where the church needed to give greater attention and discernment. That feedback was gathered and synthesized by dioceses and then episcopal conferences, before being brought to the continental level. The syntheses from episcopal conferences and continental-level meetings were shared with the Holy See, and they informed a working document known as an “Instrumentum Laboris” for the general assembly’s first session. The document’s authors describe it as “not a document of the Holy See, but of the whole church.” However, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ report indicates that only about 700,000 Catholics in the U.S. participated, representing just over 1% of the U.S. Catholic population of 66.8 million.

– 6. The Synod on Synodality’s objective boils down to answering a two-part question.
According to the vademecum, “The current Synodal Process we are undertaking is guided by a fundamental question: How does this ‘journeying together’ take place today on different levels (from the local level to the universal one), allowing the church to proclaim the Gospel? and what steps is the Spirit inviting us to take in order to grow as a synodal church?”

The working document released in June to guide general assembly participants includes many other reflection questions; but it particularly asks participants to reflect on these priorities, guided by its focus on communion, participation and mission: “How can we be more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and of the unity of all humanity?”; “How can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel?”; and “What processes, structures and institutions are needed in a missionary synodal church?”

– 7. For the first time ever, non-bishops – including lay men and women – have a vote in the synod.
The synod’s general assembly includes more than 450 participants – 363 of whom are voting members – with leaders from the Vatican curia and episcopal conferences. More than a quarter of synod members are non-bishops, including laypeople, who for the first time will have a vote during synod deliberations. A deliberate effort was made to include women and young adults. As of July 7, when the Vatican released the initial list, the number of voting women was the same as participating cardinals: 54. The list was subject to change ahead of the synod, organizers said.

In previous synods, some non-bishop participants held the non-voting role of “auditor,” which has been eliminated at this assembly, although some attendees will be non-voting observers, called “special envoys,” or non-voting facilitators or advisers.

The presence of “non-bishops,” according to Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the synod’s general relator, in a letter published at the time the change was announced, “ensures the dialogue between the prophecy of the people of God and the discernment of the pastors.”

– 8. More than 20 Catholics from the United States have been invited to participate.
Participating American bishops chosen by Pope Francis are Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Seattle, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, California.

Additional bishop-delegates selected by the USCCB and confirmed by Pope Francis are Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas; Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota; Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana; and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, who leads the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, and serves as USCCB president.

American prelates Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, and Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, formerly the bishop of Dallas, are also delegates by nature of prior papal appointments. Cardinal Tobin is an ordinary member of the Synod of Bishops and Cardinal Farrell is prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.

Pope Francis also nominated synod member Jesuit Father James Martin, editor-at-large for America magazine and founder of Outreach, a ministry for Catholics who identify as LGBTQ+.

Other U.S. delegates were nominated by the USCCB and confirmed by the pope. They include: Richard Coll, the executive director of the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Integral Human Development; Cynthia Bailey Manns, director of adult faith formation at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Minneapolis; Father Iván Montelongo of El Paso, Texas; Wyatt Olivas, a student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming; Julia Oseka, a Polish student at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia; and Sister Leticia Salazar, a member of the Company of Mary, Our Lady and chancellor of the Diocese of San Bernardino, California.

USCCB-nominated delegates participated in the continental synod, and Coll, Bishop Flores and Sister Salazar were members of the 18-person North American Synod Team that prepared the North American continental synod report for the U.S. and Canada. Bishop Flores has been named one of nine delegate presidents of the assembly.

Sister Maria Cimperman, a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart and theologian at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and American Jesuit Father David McCallum, executive director of the Discerning Leadership Program in Rome, are among the 57 non-voting experts.

– 9. In the U.S., the meeting has been a source of great expectation and great apprehension.
The synod has inspired both great praise and deep criticism for its approach, including allowing laypeople to vote; its subject matter, which includes controversial topics such as leadership roles for women, ministry to Catholics who identify as LGBTQ+, and the relationship between laypeople and clergy. At least one cardinal expressed concern that the meeting could lead to confusion and error in church teaching.
However, Bishop Flores, speaking recently with OSV News, said the meeting aims to better understand people’s reality so it can better minister to them. “We can’t respond with the Gospel if we don’t know what the reality they’re facing is,” he said of people, especially those on margins and in difficult situations.

– 10. October’s meeting is just the beginning.
In an unusual move, the synod general assembly has been divided into two sessions, with the first Oct. 4-29, and the second planned for October 2024. The decision, announced in October 2022, has parallels to the Synod of Bishops on the Family, which met in 2014 for an extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops, and then continued its work the following year as an ordinary assembly. The work of both meetings culminated in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), released in 2016.

Prior to the synod, Pope Francis presides over an ecumenical prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 30. Synod participants attend a retreat Sept. 30-Oct. 3 in Sacrofano, about 16 miles north of Rome. The retreat includes morning meditations – offered by Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe of the United Kingdom and the Benedictine Rev. Mother Maria Ignazia Angelini of Italy – afternoon small-groups and Mass.

Meanwhile, the Taizé community and other organizations have organized a meeting in Rome that weekend called “Together – Gathering of the People of God” for young people to pray for the synod.
The synod’s general assembly opens Oct. 4 with a papal Mass that includes the new cardinals created at a Sept. 30 consistory. Among them is expected to be Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

(Maria Wiering is senior writer for OSV News.)


LOS ANGELES (OSV News) – A recent court ruling has become another bend in a “rollercoaster” ride for hundreds of thousands of individuals who arrived in the U.S. as children without legal permission, said an immigration expert. On Sept. 13, a federal judge in Texas found the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program unlawful. DACA was created in 2012 under the Obama administration. According to a March 2023 report by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 578,680 people are beneficiaries of DACA. Ilissa Mira, a senior attorney with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, said DACA recipients can continue to file renewal applications and their employment authorizations. She added they will do so “with this thing that’s still gonna continue to loom over their heads – this uncertainty about what will happen to DACA in the long run. So it’s still a situation where the clock is ticking for them.” Carlos Alberto Méndez Velázquez told OSV News he knows that anxiety all too well. The 33-year-old Los Angeles resident, a filmmaker, said he wants the government to give DACA recipients like him a path out of their immigration limbo, especially since he and fellow DACA recipients generate jobs and contribute to the nation’s prosperity.

Pictured is one bead from a living rosary prayed in memory of Ethan Gerads Sept. 3, 2023, at Seven Dolors Church in Albany, Minn. Ethan, 16, was killed in a car accident July 21, a short time after he helped make the rosary. (OSV News photo/Dianne Towalski, The Central Minnesota Catholic)

ALBANY, Minn. (OSV News) – Earlier this summer, Jeff Gerads volunteered to construct a giant rosary for the Harvest of Hope Area Catholic Community. When he invited his sons Ethan, 16, and Owen, 12, to help, he could never have known how special that rosary would become. Ethan was killed in a car accident July 21. Now that rosary and the community are helping the family, Jeff and his wife, Melissa, Owen and his sister, Emma, to cope with the loss. People from across the Harvest of Hope community, which includes the parishes in Albany, Avon, St. Martin and St. Anthony, in central Minnesota, gathered Sept. 3 at Seven Dolors in Albany to pray a special living rosary to remember Ethan using the rosary he helped make. Ethan was an usher and an altar server and would have been a junior this year at Albany High School. He grew up seeing his dad pray the rosary while they were hunting and had started bringing his own rosary on hunting trips, Jeff said. “The four parishes each have an identity, but then an event like this happens and we discover something that we hold in common,” said Deacon Steven Koop, who is assigned to the Harvest of Hope community. “And that is how much we love family, how much we respect one another.”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The American public’s views of the family are “complicated” and becoming “more pessimistic than optimistic about the institution of marriage and the family,” according to a new report from Pew Research Center. Social and legal changes in recent decades have increased the variety of households in the United States, data shows. A growing share of U.S. adults in recent decades have either delayed or foregone marriage, according to Pew’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. The survey about the future of the country found that when asked about marriage and family, 40% of Americans said they are very or somewhat pessimistic about the institution of marriage and the family. Just 25% are very or somewhat optimistic. Another 29% said they are neither optimistic nor pessimistic. Just 23% of Americans called being married as either extremely or very important to living a fulfilling life, while just 26% said the same of having children. Those trends hold across religious groups. Just 22% of Catholics identified marriage as either extremely or very important to living a fulfilling life; 31% said the same about having children. When asked to rank what factors were extremely or very important for a fulfilling life, most Americans pointed to career satisfaction (71%) and having close friends (61%). Most Catholics ranked having a job or career they enjoy (77%) and having close friends (59%) as extremely or very important to living a fulfilling life.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – On the recommendation of the Catholic bishops of mainland China in consultation with the Chinese government, Pope Francis has named two bishops from the country’s mainland as members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun, who has served as vice president of the government-related Council of Chinese Bishops, and Bishop Anthony Yao Shun of Jining, the first bishop ordained after the Vatican and China signed a provisional agreement on the nomination of bishops in 2018, will be among the 365 synod members, a number which includes the pope, the Vatican said. The Vatican released an updated list Sept. 21 of people expected to participate in the assembly of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 4-19. A list released in July included Cardinal-designate Stephen Chow Sau-Yan of Hong Kong, but no bishop from the Chinese mainland. Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary of the synod, told reporters that 464 people are expected to be involved in the synod, including 54 women participating as full members and 27 women joining as experts, facilitators or special guests.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vatican urged members of the U.N. Security Council to be “creative and courageous artisans of peace and weavers of constructive dialogue” to find a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine. Addressing a meeting of the U.N. Security Council in New York Sept. 20, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister, said today the “entire international community, more than ever, cannot surrender itself and let this issue pass in silence.” He said “all member states of the United Nations, and especially those of the Security Council, are called upon to join efforts in the search for a just and lasting peace for Ukraine as an important element of the global peace of which the world thirsts.” The Security Council meeting included a speech from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who criticized the council’s structure which gives five countries the power to veto any council resolution or decision, saying that Russia’s misuse of the veto power is “to the detriment of all other U.N. members.” Archbishop Gallagher did not discuss the subject of veto power, but said it is “undeniable that the Russian attack on Ukraine has jeopardized the entire global order which arose after World War II.”

ABUJA, Nigeria (OSV News) – In another chapter of an “evil scheme” plaguing Nigeria, the southern Enugu Diocese asked for prayers for Father Marcellinus Obioma Okide, who was kidnapped Sept. 17. The priest was reportedly abducted on his way to St. Mary Amofia-Agu Affa Parish, where he serves as a parish priest. Six other people who were traveling with him were also kidnapped. In a Sept. 18 release sent to OSV News, Father Wilfred Chidi Agubuchie, the diocesan chancellor and secretary confirmed the abductions, and called on the Christian community to pray for the priest’s safe release and “a change of heart on the part of the kidnappers.” Christians in Africa’s largest nation have become prized targets for terrorist groups such as Fulani herdsmen, according to Emeka Umeagbalasi, chairman of Intersociety, a nongovernmental human rights organization. He said 22 communities and villages have been under the siege of the jihadist Fulani herdsmen and other assembled jihadists since 2022, accusing the government of former President, Muhammaru Buhari of using such Fulani attacks to enhance an agenda of “Islamizing Nigeria.” Johan Viljoen, Director of the Denis Hurley Peace Institute of the South Africa Catholic bishops’ conference told OSV News that “the situation in Enugu is particularly severe. Enugu state shares a border with Benue state, which has been under sustained attack.”

MEXICO CITY (OSV News) – Dominican Brother Obed Cuellar has seen large numbers of migrants arrive daily in the Mexican border city of Piedras Negras, where they plan to cross the Rio Grande into neighboring Eagle Pass, Texas. But there’s still space available in the diocesan-run migrant shelter. “They head straight for the river,” he told OSV News. An estimated 2,200 migrants crossed the Rio Grande into Eagle Pass in the early morning hours of Sept. 18, one of the largest massive crossings on record, according to Fox News. It’s a scene playing at other crossings across the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border as migrants arrive in increasingly large numbers, straining the resources of migrant-assistance organizations and U.S. border patrol officials alike. The U.S. Border Patrol recorded more than 177,000 arrests in August, according to the Washington Post – roughly a 30% increase from the 132,652 migrants detained in July. The sharp increase in arrests followed a jump from 99,539 detentions in June – the month following the end of Title 42, the pandemic-era health provision which allowed for the immediate expulsion of migrants to Mexico. A record number of families also were taken into custody by Border Patrol in August, according to the Post. Analysts say the urge to migrate remains strong – with many people coming from countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. Some migrants are allowed entry into the U.S. and receive notices to appear in court. But many are sent back to Mexico and transported to destinations in southern states far from the United States border.

LAMPEDUSA, Italy (OSV News) – In front of the Church of St. Gerland on the Italian island of Lampedusa, dozens of migrants lined up Sept. 14 in a neat row, one after the other. The queue was long as they waited patiently. More than 130 Red Cross employees and volunteers were working day and night to provide migrants not only with sanitary assistance, but also with a warm meal. They prepared 5,000 portions at noon and a similar amount for dinner. From Sept. 12 to Sept. 13, 7,000 migrants reached Lampedusa, an Italian island once visited by Pope Francis as his first apostolic trip destination in July 2013. On Sept. 13, authorities said a record number of 120 fragile boats arrived on the island within 24 hours. “If you count all of us here on the island we are just 5,000 inhabitants,” former Mayor Totò Martello told journalists, when, together with other people of goodwill, he rolled up his sleeves and offered the outstretched hand of another refugee a plate of pasta al pomodoro. “There haven’t been that many people here ever before probably,” 80-year-old Salvatore, who only gave his first name, told OSV News, but “at least there is a relative order here close to the church.” So far in 2023, nearly 126,000 migrants have arrived in Italy, almost double the figure by the same time in 2022. Those desperately trying to reach Europe came mainly from Africa’s Guinea, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, but also from Bangladesh and Pakistan.


HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, N.J. (OSV News) – For an Archdiocese of Newark deacon who survived the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the real battle – a search for God – began after reaching the ground. Now-Deacon Paul Carris was a 46-year-old civil engineer working in the World Trade Center’s North Tower when al-Qaida hijackers slammed American Airlines Flight 11 into the building. The deacon, who described himself as a rather indifferent Catholic layman at the time, accompanied a fellow floormate with severe health issues down 71 flights of steps to safety, even as the building burned and the South Tower was struck by a second plane. The pair were among the last to safely exit the building before it collapsed. In the following days and weeks after the terrorist attacks, he wrestled with anger and frustration that pointed to an unfulfilled hunger for a deeper relationship with God. Over the years, he immersed himself in faith formation and social outreach, eventually discerning a call to the permanent diaconate. Now assigned to Corpus Christi Parish in Hasbrouck Heights, he told OSV News that surviving 9/11 gave him “a rock of a foundation, knowing that God is here. I have no questions about the reality of God and the reality of God in everybody’s life. But unfortunately, we sometimes have to go through tragedy to wake us up to open that door.”

CHICAGO (OSV News) – St. Jude may be best known in the United States for being the patron saint of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, a cancer treatment center founded by Lebanese-American entertainer Danny Thomas. Thomas credited St. Jude – also well known among Catholics as the patron saint of hopeless causes and desperate situations – with reviving his career during a particularly low moment. He founded the hospital in gratitude. Now more Catholics are going to learn about this faithful apostle, martyr and saint as his relic – bone fragments from an arm believed to be his – leaves Italy for the first time in centuries, sponsored by the Treasures of the Church ministry, for a tour that extends into May 2024. The tour begins in Chicago on Sept. 9 at St. John Cantius Church. Scheduled stops for the remainder of 2023 include parishes in Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa, followed by Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, Indiana and Michigan. The relic’s tour then veers east to parishes in Ohio and central Pennsylvania – some 45 parishes. There are to be 100 stops in all. The 2024 stops into May have not yet been announced. At each parish, there will be public veneration and special Masses. The detailed St. Jude relic tour schedule is available at apostleoftheimpossible.com.

BALTIMORE (OSV News) – Archbishop William E. Lori told Catholics Sept. 5 that the Archdiocese of Baltimore is considering Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization as one option to deal with lawsuits expected to be filed when the state’s Child Victims Act takes effect Oct. 1. The law, passed by the Maryland General Assembly earlier this year, removed any statute of limitations for civil suits involving child sexual abuse. It caps suits against public institutions such as government schools at $890,000, and for private individuals or institutions such as churches at $1.5 million. The previous law allowed such suits for people up to age 38, an increase from the previous age limit of 25. At the time, the Maryland Catholic Conference – which includes the Archdiocese of Baltimore as well as the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, which both include Maryland counties – supported the increase to age 38. In his Sept. 5 letter, the archbishop said he has two overarching goals as the archdiocese considers its response: “the healing of victim-survivors who have suffered so profoundly from the actions of some ministers of the church” and “the continuation and furtherance of the many ministries of the Archdiocese that provide for the spiritual, educational, and social needs of countless people – Catholic and non-Catholic – across the state.” The archbishop said he plans to prioritize both goals.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – If people can learn how to inflict suffering on others with ever more deadly weapons, they also can learn to stop doing so, Pope Francis said. “If we can hurt someone, a relative or friend, with harsh words and vindictive gestures, we can also choose not to do so,” he added. “Learning the lexicon of peace means restoring the value of dialogue, the practice of kindness and respect for others.” Marking International Literacy Day, Pope Francis sent a message to Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, encouraging efforts to teach reading and writing to the hundreds of millions of people in the world who do not have basic literacy skills, but he also focused on the education needed to help all people contribute to building sustainable and peaceful societies. The papal message, was published by the Vatican Sept. 8, International Literacy Day.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Any limitations and rules regarding media access and communications during the upcoming Synod of Bishops are rooted in the “essence” of a synod and meant to help participants in their process of discernment, said the head of the synod’s communication committee. “The way in which we are going to share information about the synod is very important for the discernment process and for the entire church,” Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, told reporters at a Vatican news conference Sept. 8. Some of the “few rules regarding communication” stem from “the essence of the synod,” he said, which Pope Francis has repeatedly underlined is not a “parliament” or convention but a journey of listening and walking together in accordance with the Holy Spirit. However, Ruffini said, some portions of the synod will be livestreamed and open to Vatican accredited reporters: – Mass in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 4 to open the assembly of the Synod of Bishops. – The first general congregation, which begins that afternoon with remarks by Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the synod, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, relator general of the synod, and Pope Francis. – The moment of prayer beginning each general congregation. – The opening sessions of each of the five segments or “modules” into which the synod will be divided.

MEXICO CITY (OSV News) – Mexico’s Supreme Court has removed abortion restrictions on national level – a decision expanding access to abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy across the country. The high court granted an injunction Sept. 6, requiring federally operated hospitals and health facilities to provide abortion services. The decision also scrapped criminal penalties for physicians and health professionals performing abortions. One of the litigants, the Information Group on Reproductive Choice (known by its Spanish acronym GIRE), called the unanimous court decision “a historic milestone,” as more than 70% percent of Mexican women have access to Mexico’s federal health system. That health system includes the Mexican Social Security Institute – the largest in Latin America which covers salaried workers, along with systems for public employees and the poor. Pro-life groups decried the decision. “It is an attack on the lives of the most defenseless, innocent and vulnerable,” The National Front for the Family said via X, previously known as Twitter, calling the decision “supreme injustice.”

SÃO PAULO (OSV News) – Church activists in the Amazon are worried about the Brazilian government’s plan to exploit oil in a marine area close to the mouth of the Amazon River. Oil drilling, an issue discussed in different meetings over the past months by ecclesial movements and environmentalists, has been a problem in several regions of the Amazon. While there was relevant progress recently in the struggle to restrain the oil companies’ operations in the rainforest, the pressure from those corporations is immense, and it will take much effort from Catholics inspired by Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si’” encyclical to secure the protection ‘ of their “common home” in the Amazon, activists say. The project of exploiting oil about 300 miles northeast from Amazon River’s mouth has put top government officials on opposite sides: On one side is Environment Minister Marina Silva, who argues that technical studies showed that the operation would have a huge impact on the environment and local communities, and on the other is most of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s cabinet. Lula is himself among the ones who think that it is possible to go on with the project without harming the environment. The plan was among the topics discussed by Lula and the presidents of the other nations of the Pan-Amazon region during an Aug. 8-9 summit in Belem, in Brazil. The region consists of nine countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Suriname, Guiana and French Guiana. “The summit’s final document failed to address key elements concerning extractivism in the Amazon. All decisions should be unanimous and there was no consensus on those issues,” explained Father Dario Bossi, a member of the Integral Ecology and Mining Commission of the bishops’ conference.


MOBILE, Ala. (OSV News) – An Alabama priest disgraced after abandoning his parish to travel to Italy with an 18-year-old woman described himself as “married” to her in a Valentine’s Day letter. Father Alex Crow, 30, and the unnamed woman are believed to have left Mobile unannounced July 24 and have been located in Italy. In a separate letter, Father Crow indicated he believed that Jesus had told him and the young women to leave, and planned to remain a priest. Father Crow had been a parochial vicar at Corpus Christi Parish in Mobile and left behind a letter to the Archdiocese of Mobile stating that he would never return to the United States, according to the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office has been investigating whether a crime has occurred. A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said that there are currently no criminal charges against Father Crow, but the office is investigating the nature of the relationship and whether the woman has been manipulated or coerced. The office is also clarifying the nature of Father Crow’s involvement at the young woman’s former high school. Mobile Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi has told Father Crow that “he may no longer exercise ministry as a priest, nor to tell people he is a priest, nor to dress as a priest.” In July, the archdiocese reported the situation to the Mobile County District Attorney, who opened the investigation. In its Aug. 14 statement, the Mobile Archdiocese said that it “has and will continue to cooperate fully with all requests for information from law enforcement.”

NEW ORLEANS (OSV News) – The Archdiocese of New Orleans and Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond are pushing back at a newspaper’s investigative report claiming they mishandled several claims of clerical abuse. The Guardian published an Aug. 8 investigative feature concluding that the “archbishop on six different occasions disregarded findings of credibility” for accused priests, allegedly overriding the archdiocesan review board, a consultative body required for each diocese or eparchy by the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” also known as the Dallas Charter. The newspaper article cited a confidential 48-page attorney’s memorandum it had obtained, claiming the document revealed the archdiocese was keeping several priests from being named as credibly accused while the archbishop approved a number of settlements. Allegations against the deceased or retired priests named in The Guardian’s report ranged from inappropriate touching to rape. “We adamantly deny the assertions made in The Guardian that allegations of sexual abuse were mishandled by Archbishop Aymond and the Archdiocese of New Orleans,” Sarah Comiskey McDonald, archdiocesan communications director, said in an Aug. 8 email to OSV News. “Each allegation is complex and unique. A finding of credibility by the Internal Review Board is not a determination of guilt in either canon law or civil law,” she said. McDonald provided the archbishop’s statement to The Guardian where he said, “In each instance … decisions were made and actions were taken based upon the information and in consultation with lay professionals and experts as well as church leadership.” He said, “Each situation is complex and decisions were not made with a careless disregard for survivors nor a desire to protect the church and the priests.”

PETERSBURG, Va. (OSV News) – Father Brian Capuano has worn many hats during his tenure as a priest: pastor, mentor, director of worship and vicar for vocations, just to name a few. He also can count brewmaster among them. This spring Trapezium Brewing Co. in Petersburg launched the second release of his signature “Father Brian’s Bourbon Barrel Brown Ale,” where hundreds of family, friends and past parishioners toasted the beloved priest. For nine years Father Capuano was pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Petersburg, which is in the Richmond Diocese. To learn more about the community, its people and its culture, he would walk the streets, often dressed in his full priest cassock, and interact with those he met along the way. He ventured to local restaurants and events, believing it was important to be seen outside of church, which eventually led him to Trapezium. It became a place where he could get some paperwork done and engage with the community. Since 2019 he has been Richmond’s diocesan vicar for vocations in 2019, and despite an ever-busy schedule he still tries to frequent Trapezium and other venues. He sees this as an important part of his mission and the greater mission of the church. “We can’t expect people to simply ‘come to church’ to be evangelized,” he said. “From the beginning, the Lord sent the 12 and then the 72 to bring the good news to people who need salvation. That has to continue today; we cannot be limited as priests, and Catholics in general, to simply serving the needs of those who cross the threshold of our churches.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Thanking a group of European lawyers for their attention to environmental protection laws, Pope Francis said he was preparing another document on the subject. “I am writing a second part to Laudato Si’ to update it on current problems,” the pope told the lawyers Aug. 21 during a meeting in the library of the Apostolic Palace. He provided no further information. “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home” was the title of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter on the need for an “integral ecology” that respects the dignity and value of the human person, helps the poor and safeguards the planet. The pope made his remark in the context of thanking the lawyers for their “willingness to work for the development of a normative framework aimed at protecting the environment.” He told them, “It must never be forgotten that future generations are entitled to receive from our hands a beautiful and habitable world, and that this entails grave responsibilities toward the natural world that we have received from the benevolent hands of God.”

MEXICO CITY (OSV News) – The Jesuit-run Central American University in Managua suspended operations Aug. 16 after Nicaraguan authorities branded the school a “center of terrorism” the previous day and froze its assets for confiscation – actions marking an escalation in the regime’s repression of the Catholic Church and its charitable and educational projects. The Jesuit province in Central America immediately rebuked the terrorism accusations as “false and unfounded,” saying in an Aug. 16 statement, “The de facto confiscation of the (university) is the price to pay for seeking a more just society, protecting life, truth and freedom for the Nicaraguan people in accordance with the (school) slogan, ‘The truth will set you free.’” The accusations against the school, known locally as UCA, “form part of a series of unjustified attacks against the Nicaraguan population and other educational and social institutions of civil society – and are generating a climate of violence and insecurity and worsening the country’s social-political crisis.” UCA confirmed in a statement to the university community that the country’s 10th district court – which accused the school of “organizing criminal groups” – had ordered its assets seized and handed over to “the State of Nicaragua, which will guarantee the continuity of all educational programs.” Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Baez of Managua, currently exiled in Miami, called the “confiscation” of the UCA “unjust,” “illegal” and “outrageous.”

BOGOTÁ, Colombia (OSV News) – The Colombian bishops’ conference has welcomed the beginning of a six-month ceasefire between the nation’s military and the largest remaining rebel group and began to train dozens of priests and lay workers from different parts of the country on how to help monitor the truce. In a statement published on Aug. 10, the bishop’s conference said that 31 representatives from 18 different dioceses were briefed on details of the ceasefire and on international humanitarian law. The group also discussed methods that would be suitable to report breaches of the ceasefire. “We will take this knowledge to our territories,” said Father Jairo Alberto Rave, from the Diocese of Barrancabermeja, “so that we can make an important contribution” to the peace process. The truce started on Aug. 3, and seeks to facilitate peace talks between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army – known as ELN by its Spanish acronym – a Marxist-oriented rebel group that is particularly influential in the west of Colombia and along its eastern border with Venezuela. It is the longest ceasefire ever between Colombia’s government and the ELN and is part of President Gustavo Petro’s plans to pacify rural areas of the country that are still affected by violence waged by rebel groups and cartels, that were not part of a 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla group.

Pope appoints hundreds to attend Synod of Bishops on Synodality

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis has appointed more than 450 participants, including dozens of religious men and women and laypeople from around the world, to attend the first general assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality in October.

And that list is not even complete, Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, told reporters at a Vatican news conference July 7. More names are going to be added to the list of nonvoting members, such as experts and representatives of non-Catholic Christian communities, he said.

For now, the list of voting members is complete, numbering 363 cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and lay men and women — a first in the history of the synod. Pope Francis made significant changes to who can be a voting member of the synod on synodality and he gave women the right to vote in the synod.

Out of the 364 members who can vote, which includes the pope, 54 are women — either lay or religious; the number of cardinals appointed as members also is 54.

More than a quarter of all the voting members, that is 26.4%, are not bishops, according to the 21-page list of the appointments released July 7 by the Vatican.

Those the pope appointed to take part in the Oct. 4-29 synod include 169 cardinals or bishops representing national bishops’ conferences; 20 cardinals or bishops representing Eastern Catholic churches; five cardinals or bishops representing regional federations of bishops’ conferences; and 20 heads of Vatican dicasteries, which includes one layman, Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication.

This is the official logo for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Originally scheduled for 2022, the synod will take place in October 2023 to allow for broader consultation at the diocesan, national and regional levels. (CNS photo/courtesy Synod of Bishops)

The bishops appointed to attend from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are: Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas; Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota; and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana.

The pope also appointed five religious men and five religious women to represent the International Union of Superiors General and the Union of Superiors General.

There are an additional 50 papally appointed members, the majority of whom are cardinals and bishops, but they include 11 priests, religious and 1 layman and 1 laywoman. Those from the United States include: Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago; Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington; Cardinal Robert W. McElroy of San Diego; Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston; Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Seattle; and Jesuit Father James Martin.

Another novelty is a large group of non-bishop voting members who represent the “continental assemblies” and are named “witnesses of the synodal process.” There are 10 members in each group divided by continent: Africa; North America; Latin America; Asia; Eastern Churches and the Middle East; Europe; and Oceania, for a total of 70 individuals who are all priests, religious or lay men and women.

The group for North America includes: Richard Coll, executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the USCCB in Washington; Cynthia Bailey Manns, the adult learning director at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Community in Minnesota; Catherine Clifford, a theology professor and expert on the Second Vatican Council; Canadian Sister Chantal Desmarais, a Sister of Charity of St. Mary; Father Iván Montelongo of the Diocese of El Paso, Texas; and Sister Leticia Salazar, chancellor of the Diocese of San Bernardino, California.

Among the 16 who are part of the synod’s ordinary council include: U.S. Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey; Canadian Cardinal Gérald C. Lacroix of Québec; and Australian Archbishop Anthony C. Fisher of Sydney.

Nine members will serve as delegate presidents of the assembly and they include: Bishop Flores of Brownsville; Coptic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak; one priest, Italian Father Giuseppe Bonfrate; one nun, Mexican Sister of St. Joseph María de los Dolores Palencia; and one consecrated laywoman, Momoko Nishimura of Japan. Pope Francis will serve as president and Cardinal Mario Grech as the synod’s secretary-general.

The list of nonvoting members is not complete, Cardinal Grech said.

That list released July 7 included two spiritual assistants: British Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe and Italian Benedictine Mother Maria Ignazia Angelini. All synod participants will be expected to attend a three-day retreat before the synod begins in early October.

All of the 57 nonvoting “experts and facilitators” listed as of July 7 are priests and religious and lay men and women. They include: U.S. Sister Maria Cimperman, who is a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart; Jesuit Father David McCallum; and Australian theologian Tracey Rowland.

The theme of the synod is: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission,” and synod members will be called upon to continue to carry forward a “process of spiritual discernment” that was begun in 2021 and continue with a second synod assembly in 2024.

Newly named ‘venerable,’ Sister Lucia spread Fatima message throughout her long life

(OSV News) — Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, the last surviving Fatima visionary, died in the Carmelite cloister in Coimbra, Portugal, in February 2005 at the age of 97. At the time of her death, St. John Paul II recalled their “bonds of spiritual friendship that intensified with the passing of time.”

“I always felt supported by the daily gift of her prayers, especially in difficult moments of trial and suffering,” the pope wrote in a message to Bishop Albino Mamede Cleto of Coimbra, less than two months before the pope’s own death. “May the Lord repay her abundantly for the great and hidden service she gave the church.”

Sister Lucia dos Santos meets with Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1982, in Fatima, Portugal, one year to the day after the pope was shot in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The pope credited the Virgin Mary with helping him to survive the assassination attempt, which occurred on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. Sister Lucia died Feb. 13, 2005, at the age of 97 at her convent in Coimbra, Portugal. She was declared “venerable” on June 22 by Pope Francis. (OSV News photo/KNA)

On June 22, Pope Francis declared Sister Lucia “venerable” with a decree recognizing the Fatima visionary’s heroic virtues. The next step toward official recognition of sainthood is beatification, after which Sister Lucia would be called “blessed,” followed by canonization, where she would be declared a saint. In general, the last two steps each require a miracle attributed to the intercession of the sainthood candidate and verified by the church.

The Portuguese girl was only 10 years old when she and her two younger cousins told their family and friends that they had seen the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima in 1917. Mary first appeared to Lucia, 9-year-old Francisco Marto and 7-year-old Jacinta Marto on May 13, and the apparitions continued approximately once a month until October 1917, culminating in the “Miracle of the Sun.” The Catholic Church has ruled that the apparitions and the messages from Our Lady of Fatima were worthy of belief.

Francisco died in 1919 and Jacinta died 1920, both of the Spanish flu. St. John Paul beatified them in 2000.

That same year, St. John Paul, who met Sister Lucia three times, ordered the publication of the so-called “third secret” of Fatima, which he may have believed referred to the 20th-century persecution of the church under atheistic systems, such as Nazism and particularly Russian communism, and spoke of the 1981 attempt to assassinate him.

The pope was shot May 13, 1981, the anniversary of the first of the Fatima apparitions.

St. John Paul said he believed Mary saved his life that day; he sent one of the bullets removed from his abdomen to Fatima, where it is part of the crown on the statue of Our Lady.

In his 2005 message to Bishop Cleto, who died in 2012, the pope said that with her death, Sister Lucia “reached the goal she always aspired to in prayer and in the silence of the convent,” and she was a “humble and devout Carmelite who consecrated her life to Christ, the savior of the world.”

Seeing the Virgin Mary as a child “was the beginning of a unique mission for her, one to which she was faithful until the end of her days,” he said.

“Sister Lucia leaves us an example of great fidelity to the Lord and of joyfully following his divine will,” the pope wrote.

Sts. Jacinta and Francisco Marto are pictured in a colorized image with their cousin, Lucia dos Santos (right), in a file photo taken around the time of the 1917 apparitions of Mary at Fatima, Portugal. Sister Lucia was declared “venerable” on June 22 by Pope Francis. (OSV News photo/Reuters)

Upon Sister Lucia’s death, speculation surrounding her cause for canonization was immediate. Some wondered if St. John Paul would waive the five-year waiting period after a person’s death for a cause to open.

Jesuit Father Paolo Molinari, postulator of the cause for Sts. Francisco and Jacinta, said at the time he personally believed it was important to wait.

“We must avoid the danger of people thinking that she is being beatified or canonized just because of the visions,” he told Catholic News Service in 2005.

“The apparitions of Our Lady and what Our Lady said certainly had an impact on Sister Lucia’s life,” he said, but they did not make her holy.

“She accepted the message and she lived according to the message for more than 80 years, offering her life for the sake of sinners. This is holiness, not just receiving the grace of a vision,” said the Jesuit, who died in 2014, three years before Francisco and Jacinta were recognized as saints.

Ultimately, St. John Paul’s successor, Pope Benedict XVI, waived the standard waiting period for Sister Lucia’s cause, and it was opened in 2008. The Coimbra Diocese completed its investigation and forwarded documentation to the Vatican’s Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Causes of Saints in 2017, the apparitions’ centennial year.

Three months later, on May 13, 2017, Pope Francis canonized Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Marto.

(This reporting drew from Catholic News Service archives.)


Eugene Boonie, a member of the Navajo Nation, fills up his water tank at the livestock water spigot in the Bodaway Chapter of the Navajo Nation, in Blue Gap, Ariz., Sept. 17, 2020. After a 5-4 Supreme Court decision struck a blow to the Navajo Nation’s request for federal assistance in securing water for the reservation June 22, 2023, Catholics who minister among Native Americans shared their thoughts on the historic water crisis facing the Southwest U.S. and the Indigenous populations who live there. (OSV News photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters)

MELVILLE, La. (OSV News) – Father Stephen Ugwu, the pastor of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Melville, Louisiana, is stable and recovering following a July 13 attack with a machete. The priest is at a hospital being treated for lacerations to his head and body. According to local media reports, a man wielding a machete attacked the priest at the church’s campus after Father Ugwu declined the man’s request, leaving Father Ugwu with cuts on his head and body. Melville police arrested the attacker and assisted Father Ugwu, a priest from Nigeria serving the Diocese of Lafayette. The suspect, identified as Johnny Dwayne Neely, 58, of Palmetto, is in custody, according to St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office. He faces charges of attempted second-degree murder, hate crimes and home invasion and a bench warrant. Based on words used by the suspect, Melville Police Chief Phillip Lucas told local media that he believed the attack was racially motivated. Blue Rolfes, diocesan director of communications, told OSV News July 15 that Father Ugwu’s condition was improving. He has some “serious wounds,” she said, but he is receiving the care he needs, and doctors are optimistic about his recovery. “He feels blessed to be alive and that his God protected him during his time of need,” Rolfes said.

ST. MICHAELS, Ariz. (OSV News) – After a 5-4 Supreme Court decision struck a blow to the Navajo Nation’s request for federal assistance in securing water for the reservation June 22, Catholics who minister among Native Americans shared their thoughts on the historic water crisis facing the Southwest U.S. and the Indigenous populations who live there. “People line up at a community well and fill up their water containers to take out to their homesteads to be able to have water for their families for the week, sometimes for days. If it’s an older couple, it might last a little longer,” said Dot Teso, president of St. Michael Indian School in St. Michaels, Arizona – which was founded by St. Katharine Drexel in 1902. “You can imagine if you were going on a camping trip and you’re thinking about water for the trip – these people have to think of this every day.” Arizona v. Navajo Nation came before the Supreme Court when the Navajo Nation asked for the courts to require the federal government to identify the former’s water rights and needs and provide a way to meet those needs. Seeking to protect their own interest in access to the Colorado River, the states of Arizona, Colorado and Nevada intervened in the suit. While the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona dismissed the Navajos’ complaint, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in their favor. Navajo Nation Council Speaker Crystalyne Curley in a statement the ruling “will not deter the Navajo Nation from securing the water that our ancestors sacrificed and fought for – our right to life and the livelihood of future generations.”

ST. PAUL, Minn. (OSV News) – An annual procession to Father Augustus Tolton’s gravesite in Illinois will be joined next year by pilgrims walking the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage en route to Indianapolis, the Diocese of Springfield’s worship director announced July 9. Father Daren Zehnle shared the news with more than 200 pilgrims who participated in this year’s procession from a parish in Quincy, Illinois, with ties to Father Tolton, to his gravesite almost a mile away. Father Tolton (1854-1897) is the first identifiable Black priest in the United States, and he was renowned not only for his holiness and preaching, but also for the considerable adversity he faced as a Black priest in the late 1800s. Pope Francis declared him “venerable” in 2019. Will Peterson, founder and president of Modern Catholic Pilgrim, the Minnesota-based nonprofit organizing the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, said Father Tolton is the first of six Black American Catholics on the path to canonization officially to be linked geographically to the national pilgrimage. He hopes others will be as well, as the national pilgrimage’s four routes will pass through cities where several of these “Saintly Six” lived and ministered, as pilgrims make their way to Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress in July 2024.

ROME (OSV News) – Venerable Lucia was only 10 years old when she and her two cousins told their friends and family that they had seen the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima in 1917. Mary first appeared to Lucia, 9-year-old Francisco Marto and 7-year-old Jacinta Marto May 13, and the apparitions continued once a month until October 1917. The church has ruled that the apparitions and the messages from Our Lady of Fatima were worthy of belief. On June 22, Pope Francis declared Sister Lucia “venerable,” with a decree recognizing the Fatima visionary’s heroic virtues. Pope Benedict XVI waived the standard waiting period for Sister Lucia’s cause, opening it in 2008. The Diocese of Coimbra, Portugal, completed its investigation and forwarded documentation to the Holy See’s Congregation (since renamed Dicastery) for the Causes of Saints in 2017, the apparitions’ centennial year.

KYIV, Ukraine (OSV News) – With Russia’s war on Ukraine now approaching its 10th year – and the full-scale invasion surpassing the 500-day mark – OSV News traveled to Kyiv to meet with Bishop Vitalii Kryvytskyi of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kyiv-Zhytomyr, who shared his reflections on the war’s spiritual impact. Air raid sirens, soldiers’ funerals and endless work hours have become routine as Ukraine carries on with daily life while fighting a war for global values and security, said the bishop. Grief and confusion can break “even people really close to God,” he admitted. At the same time, “war takes off all the masks” and ultimately, the persecution inflicted by Russia against Ukrainian faithful mysteriously “crystallizes faith and faithfulness to the Gospel,” said Bishop Kryvytskyi, adding that he has learned to simply be present to those in the depths of wartime suffering. “People sometimes expect priests to have answers to all the questions,” he said. “And now we understand that our greater task is to be with our flock, even if we do not have answers for the questions, even in our hearts.”

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (OSV News) – A group of Brazilian missionaries announced July 3 they have left their post in Nicaragua, becoming the latest community of women religious to leave the country, where some Catholics are facing increasing persecution by the government of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. The Sisters Poor of Jesus Christ posted their statement on Facebook, announcing the community’s departure from Nicaragua and its arrival in El Salvador, along with photos showing sisters getting off a bus carrying a crucifix. “We want through this statement to express our gratitude for the seven years of mission in the lands of Nicaragua, we appreciate the welcome of the church and its people during that time in which our charism remained in the country serving the poor in their multiple facets,” said the statement posted in Spanish and Portuguese on the Fraternidade O Caminho page. The sisters’ announcement, reported by Global Sisters Report, came just ahead of Reuters reporting July 5 that Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, Nicaragua – sentenced in February to 26 years after being accused of treason – had been released from prison late July 4. But Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Baez of Managua, Nicaragua, who has been living in exile in Miami for some time, tweeted July 5 that he has received no information about Bishop Álvarez’s reported release. In news reports, Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes of Managua denied July 5 that the bishop had been freed.

Synod document asks how to increase unity, participation, mission outreach

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In a church that “bears the signs of serious crises of mistrust and lack of credibility,” members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be asked to find ways to build community, encourage the contribution of every baptized person and strengthen the church’s primary mission of sharing the Gospel, said the working document for the October gathering.

“A synodal church is founded on the recognition of a common dignity deriving from baptism, which makes all who receive it sons and daughters of God, members of the family of God, and therefore brothers and sisters in Christ, inhabited by the one Spirit and sent to fulfil a common mission,” said the document, which was released at the Vatican June 20.

However, it said, many Catholics around the world report that too many baptized persons – particularly LGBTQ+ Catholics, the divorced and civilly remarried, the poor, women and people with disabilities – are excluded from active participation in the life of the church and, particularly, from its decision-making structures.

The people who presented the working document for the Synod of Bishops pose for a photo in the Vatican press office June 20, 2023. From the left are Helena Jeppesen-Spuhler, a synod participant from Switzerland; Sister Nadia Coppa, president of the women’s International Union of Superiors General; Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the synod; Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, relator general of the synod; and Jesuit Father Giacomo Costa, a consultant to the synod. (CNS photo/Cindy Wooden)

Based on the input from listening sessions held around the world since October 2021 and, especially, from reports submitted from continental and regional synod sessions earlier this year, the working document asks members of the synod to focus their prayer, discussion and discernment on three priorities:

– Communion, asking: “How can we be more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and of the unity of all humanity?”

– “Co-responsibility in mission: How can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel?”

– “Participation, governance and authority: What processes, structures and institutions are needed in a missionary synodal church?”

The first synod assembly, scheduled for Oct. 4-29, “will have the task of discerning the concrete steps which enable the continued growth of a synodal church, steps that it will then submit to the Holy Father,” the document said. Some questions, perhaps many of them, will require further discernment and study with the help of theologians and canon lawyers, which is why a second assembly of the synod will be held in October 2024.

Even then, resolving every issue raised in the synod listening sessions is unlikely, the document said. But “characteristic of a synodal church is the ability to manage tensions without being crushed by them.”

The working document includes worksheets with questions “for discernment” that synod members will be asked to read and pray with before arriving in Rome.

One of them asks, “What concrete steps can the church take to renew and reform its procedures, institutional arrangements and structures to enable greater recognition and participation of women, including in governance, decision-making processes and in the taking of decisions, in a spirit of communion and with a view to mission?”

“Most of the continental assemblies and the syntheses of several episcopal conferences,” it said, “call for the question of women’s inclusion in the diaconate to be considered. Is it possible to envisage this, and in what way?”

A printed copy of the “Instrumentum Laboris,” or working document, for the world Synod of Bishops on synodality is seen in the Vatican press office June 20, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

As the synod process has taken place, questions have been raised about the relationship between participation in the life of the church and the call to conversion, the document said, which raises “the question of whether there are limits to our willingness to welcome people and groups, how to engage in dialogue with cultures and religions without compromising our identity, and our determination to be the voice of those on the margins and reaffirm that no one should be left behind.”

Another tension highlighted in the process involves shared responsibility in a church that believes its hierarchical structure is willed by Christ and is a gift.

The working document reported a “strong awareness that all authority in the church proceeds from Christ and is guided by the Holy Spirit. A diversity of charisms without authority becomes anarchy, just as the rigor of authority without the richness of charisms, ministries and vocations becomes dictatorship.”

But the document asked members to discuss, think and pray about ways that authority can be exercised more as leadership that empowers shared responsibility and creativity.

“How can we renew and promote the bishop’s ministry from a missionary synodal perspective?” it asked.

“How should the role of the bishop of Rome (the pope) and the exercise of his primacy evolve in a synodal church?” the document said. The question echoed St. John Paul II’s invitation in his 1995 encyclical, “Ut Unum Sint,” (“That They May be One”), for an ecumenical exploration “to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation.”

The working document also asked synod members to consider ways more priests, religious and laypeople could be involved in the process of choosing bishops.

Throughout the listening sessions at every level, the document said, people recognized that Catholics cannot share fully in the spiritual discernment needed for true co-responsibility without further education in the Christian faith, Catholic social teaching and in the process of discernment itself and how it differs from simply discussing a problem and voting on possible solutions.
In particular, it said, “all those who exercise a ministry need formation to renew the ways of exercising authority and decision-making processes in a synodal key, and to learn how to accompany community discernment and conversation in the Spirit.”

“Candidates for ordained ministry must be trained in a synodal style and mentality,” it said, and the seminary curriculum must be revised “so that there is a clearer and more decisive orientation toward formation for a life of communion, mission and participation.”

Pope names 21 cardinals, including U.S.-born Archbishop Prevost

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis named 21 new cardinals, including U.S.-born Archbishop Robert F. Prevost, who took the helm at the Dicastery for Bishops in April, and French Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The pope announced the names after his recitation of the Angelus with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square July 9. He said he would formally install the cardinals during a special consistory at the Vatican Sept. 30.

Cardinal-designate Prevost expressed his surprise and joy upon hearing the announcement, he said in an interview with Vatican News July 10.

“Certainly I felt happy for the recognition of the mission that has been entrusted to me — which is a very beautiful thing — and at the same time I thought with reverence and holy fear: I hope I can respond to what the pope is asking of me. It is an enormous responsibility, like when he called me to Rome as prefect,” he said in Italian.

“I see it as the continuation of a mission that the pope has decided to give me,” he added.

Speaking in English, Cardinal-designate Prevost said it is not a coincidence that Pope Francis scheduled the consistory before the start of the first general assembly of the synod on synodality, saying he is firmly convinced that “all of us are called to walk together.”

The new cardinals represent more than a dozen countries on five continents. Three of the new cardinals are current Vatican officials, three are current or retired apostolic nuncios, 13 are current or retired heads of archdioceses around the world, one is a rector major of the Salesians and one is a 96-year-old confessor in Buenos Aires. Six belong to religious orders; two of them are Jesuits.

Continuing a papal custom, among the new cardinals were three churchmen — two archbishops and a Capuchin Franciscan priest — over the age of 80, whom Pope Francis said he wanted to honor because they were particularly deserving because of “their service to the church.” Being over the age of 80, they are ineligible to vote in a conclave.

After the new cardinals are installed in late September, there will be 137 potential voters and the total membership of the College of Cardinals is expected to be 243.

The nomination of Cardinal-designate Prevost brings to 18 the number of U.S. cardinals; after the consistory, the U.S. contingent will include 11 potential papal electors.

The September ceremony will mark the ninth time Pope Francis has created cardinals since his election to the papacy in March 2013. After the ceremony Sept. 30, he will have created a total of 131 new cardinals in that College of Cardinals, which would make up about 54% of the total college and 72% of potential electors.

With the addition of six new cardinals under the age of 60, the average age of cardinal electors will get one year younger going from today’s average age of 72 years 8 months to 71 years 6 months. Cardinal-designate Alves Aguiar of Lisbon, 49, will be just six months older than the youngest elector, Cardinal Giorgio Marengo of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 49.

Cardinal-designate Prevost, 67, was born in Chicago, and had served as bishop of Chiclayo, Peru, for more than eight years before being appointed to lead the Vatican body responsible for recommending to the pope candidates to fill the office of bishop in many of the Latin-rite dioceses of the world. Recommendations made by the dicastery are typically approved by the pope. Archbishop Prevost has been a member of the dicastery since November 2020.

He also oversees the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, established in 1958 by Pope Pius XII to study the church in Latin America, where nearly 40% of the world’s Catholics reside.

The cardinal-designate holds degrees from Villanova University in Pennsylvania and the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and a doctorate from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. An Augustinian friar, he joined the Augustinian mission in Peru in 1985 and largely worked in the country until in 1999, when he was elected head of the Augustinians’ Chicago-based province. From 2001 to 2013, he served as prior general of the worldwide order.

In 2014, Pope Francis named him bishop of Chiclayo, in northern Peru, and the pope asked him also to be apostolic administrator of Callao, Peru, from April 2020 to May 2021. The pope then appointed him to succeed the retiring Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet as prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops in early 2023.

Cardinal-designate Pierre, 77, was born in Rennes, France. Ordained to the priesthood in 1970, he served as apostolic nuncio to Haiti, Uganda and Mexico until Pope Francis named him nuncio to the United States in 2016.

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of Military Services, USA, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offered his congratulations and prayers to the new cardinals on behalf of the bishops of the United States July 9.

“Please join me in praying for Cardinal-designate Prevost and Cardinal-designate Pierre as they continue their lives of service to the universal church,” Archbishop Broglio said. “For the church in the United States, their ministry has been a true blessing. Our episcopal conference rejoices in this sign of recognition of these distinguished churchmen.”

Before he read the 21 names, Pope Francis told the estimated 15,000 people in St. Peter’s Square that the diversity of the new cardinals “expresses the universality of the church, which continues to proclaim God’s merciful love to all people on Earth.”

The order in which the cardinals are announced determines their seniority in the College of Cardinals, which has little practical effect except in liturgical processions.

Here is the list of the new cardinals:

Pope Francis greets Archbishop Robert F. Prevost, a Chicago native, during a private audience at the Vatican Feb. 12, 2022. The pope will elevate Cardinal-designate Prevost, who is prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, to the College of Cardinals during a special consistory at the Vatican Sept. 30. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

— U.S.-born Archbishop Robert F. Prevost, prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, 67.

— Italian Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Dicastery for Eastern Churches, 67.

— Argentine Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández of La Plata, Argentina, incoming prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. He will turn 61 July 18.

— Swiss Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig, the apostolic nuncio to Argentina, 76.

— French Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, 77.

— Italian Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, 58.

— South African Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, 66.

— Argentine Archbishop Ángel Sixto Rossi of Córdoba, 64. He is a member of the Society of Jesus.

— Colombian Archbishop Luis José Rueda Aparicio of Bogotá, 61.

— Polish Archbishop Grzegorz Rys of Lódz, 59.

— South Sudanese Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla of Juba, 59.

— Spanish Archbishop José Cobo Cano of Madrid, 57.

— Tanzanian Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, coadjutor archbishop of Tabora, 63.

— Malaysian Bishop Sebastian Francis of Penang, Malaysia, 71.

— Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-yan of Hong Kong, 63. Born in Hong Kong, he is a member of the Society of Jesus.

— Bishop François-Xavier Bustillo of Ajaccio in Corsica, France, 54. Born in Spain, he is a member of the Conventual Franciscans.

— Portuguese Auxiliary Bishop Américo Alves Aguiar of Lisbon, 49.

— Spain-born Salesian Father Ángel Fernández Artime, rector major of the Salesians, 62.

Those named cardinal and over the age of 80:

— Italian Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, a retired papal nuncio, a former curial official and a respected historian of the Second Vatican Council, 82.

— Retired Archbishop Diego Rafael Padrón Sánchez of Cumaná, Venezuela, 84.

— Capuchin Father Luis Pascual Dri, confessor at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompei, Buenos Aires, 96.

Pope returns to Vatican, ‘is better than before,’ chief surgeon says

By Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) – Pope Francis has returned to the Vatican after a nine-day hospital stay and intends to go ahead with his planned trips abroad in August and September, according to his chief surgeon.

“The pope is fine. He’s better than before,” said Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the chief surgeon who operated on the pope June 7 to repair a hernia; he also operated on the pope in 2021.

“The pope has confirmed all his trips,” the doctor told reporters outside Rome’s Gemelli hospital June 16, right after the pope was released. The pope was scheduled to attend World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 2-6, and to go to Mongolia Aug. 31-Sept. 4.

“As a matter of fact,” Alfieri said, according to Vatican News, “he will be able to embark on them better than before because now he will no longer have the discomfort of his previous ailments. He will be a stronger pope.”

When asked about the pope’s “convalescence” to fully heal from abdominal surgery, Alfieri said, “he doesn’t convalesce; he has already started working.”

“We asked him to do some convalescence (and) this time I’m sure he will listen to us a little bit more because he has important events ahead of him and he has already said personally that he will go through with all of them, including his trips,” Alfieri said.

When the pope emerged from the hospital in a wheelchair the morning of June 16, he greeted well-wishers and journalists who asked him how he was. “I’m still alive,” he said, smiling.

He also expressed his sorrow for the recent deaths of migrants who drowned crossing the Mediterranean Sea near Greece.

Pope Francis smiles as he leaves Rome’s Gemelli hospital early June 16, 2023. Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the pope’s chief surgeon, and Gianluca Gauzzi Broccoletti, commander of the Vatican police force, are next to the pope as he responds to questions from Spanish journalist Eva Fernández, left, and Italian journalist Vania De Luca. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

He was accompanied to an awaiting white Fiat car by his aides and Alfieri, and then, with the front passenger-side window open, waved to others lining the road as he left.

Before returning to the Vatican, he stopped to pray at the icon of Mary, “Salus Populi Romani,” in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, a stop he makes before and after every trip abroad and a stop he also made in July 2021 after undergoing colon surgery at the Gemelli.

Then the pope “stopped for a brief private visit to the sisters of the Institute of the Most Holy Child Mary, gathered for their general chapter,” the Vatican press office said. The pope also greeted police outside one of the side entrances into the Vatican to “thank them for their service.”

The Vatican press office said the pope’s Angelus address and prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square June 18 was confirmed as well as individual audiences in the coming days.

His general audience June 21 was canceled, however, “to safeguard the Holy Father’s postoperative recovery,” it said in a communique June 16.

Pope Francis underwent a three-hour surgery to repair a hernia June 7. The procedure, under general anesthesia, was performed using a surgical mesh to strengthen the repair and prevent the recurrence of a hernia. Surgeons also removed several adhesions or bands of scar tissue that had formed after previous surgeries decades ago, Alfieri told reporters after the operation.

Alfieri had explained that the pope’s immediate recovery required avoiding undue stress or strain so as not to tear the prosthetic mesh used to reinforce the abdominal wall.

The pope had spent seven days in the hospital in July 2021 after undergoing colon surgery to treat diverticulitis, inflammation of bulges in the intestine. He was also hospitalized for three nights for a respiratory infection in late March.