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Synod on Synodality: Vatican publishes full list of participants

The opening day of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican Synod Hall on Oct. 3, 2018. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Jul 7, 2023 / 06:42 am (CNA).

The Vatican published Friday the full list of participants who will take part in the upcoming Synod on Synodality assembly in October.

Nearly a third of the 364 voting delegates in the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops were chosen directly by Pope Francis, including the American Jesuit Father James Martin, a frequent commentator on LGBTQ outreach; former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller; and Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.

For the first time, laypeople will not only participate in the Synod of Bishops assembly but also will be full members, with the ability to vote on a final document at the end of the process in October 2024.

Pope Francis chose 120 delegates including Americans Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C., Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, and Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego. You can read the Vatican’s full list of participants here.

In addition to the American prelates chosen by Pope Francis, the U.S. bishops’ conference has elected five members to attend the synod assembly: Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan of New York; Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas; Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota; Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana; and Archbishop Timothy Broglio, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

During the nearly monthlong Vatican assembly, the delegates will discuss questions posed in the recently released Instrumentum Laboris, which covers such hot-button topics as women deacons, priestly celibacy, LGBTQ outreach, and highlights a desire for new institutional bodies to allow for greater participation in decision-making by the “People of God.”

The 50-page text also outlines a “synodal method” of spirituality focused on listening to the Holy Spirit and “discerning the signs of the times” and calls for new formation programs to train candidates for ordained ministry “in a synodal style and mentality.”

German bishops participating in the assembly include German Bishops Conference (DBK) president Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, Bishop Franz-Joseph Overbeck of Essen, and Bishop Bertram Johannes Meier of Augsburg, who were selected as DBK representatives, and papal picks Bishop Felix Genn of Münster and Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, as well as Cardinal Mueller. Oster is one of four German bishops who recently voted to block funding the next stage of the controversial German synodal reform process.

More than 50 women will be participating as voting members in the synod assembly scheduled for Oct. 4–29 at the Vatican. Among them is Nicaraguan Sister Xiskya Valladares, known as the tweeting nun, who is a professor and journalist based in Spain and is a co-founder of iMision, an organization seeking to support the presence of the Church in the digital world.

Among the lay delegates selected by the pope are Americans Cynthia Bailey Manns, the director of adult learning at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Community in Minneapolis, and Wyatt Olivas, a young adult musician from Cheyenne, Wyoming. The lay delegates from Europe include Enrique Alarcón Garcia, president of the Spain-based Christian Fraternity of Persons with Disabilities.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, SJ, and Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga will be among the cardinals nominated by the pope to attend the synod assembly. Cardinal Charles Muang Bo of Yangon, Bishop Stephen Chow of Hong Kong, and Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney will also participate.

Irish-American Cardinal Kevin Farrell will participate as a delegate from the Roman Curia and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, is automatically a delegate as an ordinary member of the synod council.

Jesuit Superior General Arturo Sosa and Sister Elizabeth Mary Davis, RSM, are among the delegates representing religious orders.

Father Timothy Radcliffe, OP, a prominent British theologian who has drawn criticism by some for his statements on homosexuality, is listed as a spiritual assistant, a nonvoting position in the Synod on Synodality. Radcliffe, who served as master of the Order of Preachers from 1992 to 2001, will also lead a three-day retreat for all of the synod participants ahead of the assembly. 

In a change from recent synods, Pope Francis has broken the general assembly into two sessions, one to be held in October 2023 and the second in October 2024.

According to Cardinal Mario Grech, the head of the Vatican’s synod office, conclusions will be reached only after the second session in 2024. At the end of the first session this year, the synod leadership will propose to participants some ideas for what to do in between the two sessions.

The Catholic Church’s Synod on Synodality has been underway since October 2021. At the end of the process in 2024, synod assembly participants will vote on an advisory final document that will be presented to the pope, who can decide, if he wishes, to adopt the text as a papal document or to write his own at the conclusion of the synod.

Pope Francis has said that he sees the Holy Spirit as “the heart of synodality.”

“The synod now taking place is — and should be — a journey in accordance with the Spirit, not a parliament for demanding rights and claiming needs in accordance with the agenda of the world, nor an occasion for following wherever the wind is blowing, but the opportunity to be docile to the breath of the Holy Spirit,” the pope said.

Jonathan Liedl of the National Catholic Register, Andrea Gagliarducci of CNA, AC Wimmer of CNA Deutsch, EWTN Rome correspondent Rudolf Gehrig, and freelance writer Rachel Thomas contributed to this story.

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