Following the celebration of various synods during Francis’s pontificate, such as the Synod on the Family (2014), the Synod on Youth (2018), and the Synod on the Amazon (2019), the Synod of Synodality emerges as a turning point and a link between all of them. However, the Pope seems keen to ensure that this word, which, in fact, defines what the Church is, does not remain merely an incidental term from his tenure on the throne of Peter. They are the foundations of the Church’s future. Or, in Francis’s words, “what the Lord wants for the Church of the third millennium,” and for synodality to thus be a “constitutive dimension of the Church.”

For this reason, the Pope announced on October 16, 2022, less than a year before the start of the General Assembly of the Synod and after 12 months of consultations, that for the first time, this gathering would take place in two sessions: the first, from October 4 to 29, 2023, and the second in the same month of 2024.

The announcement came right after the Angelus that he recites every Sunday in St. Peter’s Square before the pilgrims: “On October 10 of last year, the first phase of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops opened, on the theme ‘Towards a synodal Church. Communion and participation in the mission,'” he said then. “At this moment, the diocesan phase of listening and discernment is unfolding,” the Pope continued, highlighting that it is a phase that is yielding “many fruits” and, therefore, with the aim that “the maturation is favorable, it is necessary not to be in a hurry.”

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Thus, the Pontiff justified his decision to extend the Synod, noting that to “ensure a more relaxed time for discernment,” he was establishing “that this synodal assembly takes place in two sessions: the first, from October 4 to 29, 2023, and the second in October 2024.”

“I trust that this decision may favor the understanding of synodality as a constitutive dimension of the Church, to help everyone live it as a journey of brothers and sisters who bear witness to the joy of the gospel,” Francis concluded.

In this explanation, the Pope refers to the “rich” “fruits” that the diocesan phase was yielding. For the first time in history, all the baptized – and not just the bishops – have answered the Church’s questions. As a result, complex issues have arisen that may be challenging to address, which would have encouraged the Pope to declare this extension of dates. The Instrumentum Laboris of the Synod of Synodality has been drawn up based on the issues presented by local churches worldwide, which include topics such as the role of women and their possible access to the diaconate; the care and inclusion of LGBTQ people, access to the priesthood for married men; abuse; and the management of authority within the Church.

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