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Prayer opportunities abound at Synod on Synodality

Pope Francis prays at the opening Mass for the Synod on Synodality on Oct. 4, 2023. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Oct 11, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Synod on Synodality has given members many opportunities for communal and individual prayer throughout the 2023 assembly — and even before it began.

In an unusual feature for a synod, hundreds of participants spent the three days immediately preceding the assembly on a retreat with morning prayer, Mass, and meditations in a town 20 miles outside Rome.

The retreat also featured “conversation in the Spirit,” a way of dialoguing in small groups which is also a feature of the Synod on Synodality itself.

The synod session then officially opened with Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 4. Afterward, delegates prayed the Liturgy of the Hours together before listening to opening speeches.

Both Pope Francis and Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, have emphasized the importance of prayer in the synodal process.

In a letter to bishops in September, Grech quoted the pope’s prayer intention for the month of October 2022, that “without prayer, there will be no synod.”

“The synod is first and foremost an event of prayer and listening that involves not only the members of the synod assembly but every baptized person, every particular Church,” Grech wrote. “All of us, in fact, are called at this time to unite in the communion of prayer and in the insistent invocation of the Holy Spirit to guide us in discerning what the Lord is asking of his Church today.”

Members will celebrate Mass or Divine Liturgy together another four times during the monthlong assembly before the closing Mass on Oct. 29. The mornings that don’t begin with Mass start with prayer with the full assembly.

The second week of the Synod on Synodality assembly began Monday with a Greek-Byzantine Divine Liturgy offered in St. Peter’s Basilica for all Synod delegates. Vatican Media

On the morning of Oct. 9, Cardinal Grech reminded delegates that a room on the second floor of the Paul VI Hall, where they are meeting every day, has been set up as a chapel for eucharistic adoration.

The Church of Santa Maria della Pietà, a chapel connected to a German national foundation and located on Vatican property close to the audience hall, is also available for private prayer throughout the synod, he said.

Throughout the assembly, which includes small group discussions and full assembly meetings with reports and short speeches, there will also be brief moments of silence to allow participants to pray and reflect on what they have just listened to. 

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for October 2023 is also for the synod, that the Church “may adopt listening and dialogue as a style of life at every level, allowing herself to be guided by the Holy Spirit towards the world’s peripheries.”

Synod on Synodality official events

In the afternoon of Oct. 12, synod members can take part in a group pilgrimage to several of Rome’s catacombs.

Canadian sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz poses next to his sculpture, ‘Angels Unawares.’ . Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

One week later, participants and members of the public are invited to join an evening prayer service for migrants and refugees in St. Peter’s Square, close to “Angels Unawares,” a bronze sculpture by artist Timothy Schmalz installed close to the colonnade in 2019.

Near the end of the assembly, on Oct. 25, the synod will pray a rosary together in the Vatican Gardens, in honor of Mary and in commemoration of October being a month dedicated to the rosary.

The last full assembly meeting of the synod, after the approval of a document summarizing the month’s conversations, will conclude with the singing of the “Te Deum,” an ancient Latin hymn praising God.

Other prayer invitations

At the start of the Synod on Synodality, the leadership of St. Peter’s Basilica announced it had organized several additional opportunities to join in prayer during October.

Every day in the Most Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the basilica, an additional hour of eucharistic adoration has been added at 7 p.m. to allow synod members to join at the end of their meetings. The general public is also invited to attend the holy hour, with the basilica closing at 8 p.m. instead of its usual October closing time of 6:30 p.m.

A candlelight rosary procession is also taking place every Saturday night in St. Peter’s Square, a continuation of an initiative that took place during the month of May. The intention of the rosary will be for the Synod on Synodality.

On Oct. 10, eucharistic adoration was held on the front portico of St. Peter’s Basilica, in front of the square, as it is held every second Tuesday of the month.

The bishop of Assisi has also invited synod members, on one of their free days in Rome, to make a pilgrimage to the birthplace of St. Francis. The town of Assisi is about 100 miles north of Rome and easily accessible by train.

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