16th Briefing and Press Conference – 23 October 2023

Synod of Synodality, Vatican, 4 to 29 October 2023

Pedro Brassesco - CELAM
Pedro Brassesco - CELAM

Under the coordination of Cristiane Murray, Deputy Director of the Holy See Press Office, Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, Austria, took the floor; cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Mexico, biblical scholar, this is his seventh synod; Cardinal Jean Marc Avelin e, Archbishop of Marseille, France; Sister Samuela María Rigón SSM, Professor of Psychology at the Gregorian University.

RUFFINI: “This morning we had the live broadcast of the Mass and the opening of the General Congregation. A draft of the Letter-Message to the People of God, an initiative that came up last Wednesday, was read out. It was greeted with loud applause. There is room for amendments, which can be submitted by 6 p.m. Rome today, Monday. A final draft will then be made and published next Wednesday [25 October]”.

SCHÖNBORN: “This is the best synod of my life because the disposition of the participants [at round tables] allowed for active participation: we all spoke. What can we draw from this stage? In 1965, I was 20 years old, I was finishing the Second Vatican Council, I was already a Dominican and I remember that in a very large room, they were talking to us about the Council, and one sentence stayed with me: if this Council does not speak of an increase in faith and charity, our work has no meaning. I say the same thing about this synod. What we are doing now is aimed at the life of communion which is fundamental to the life of the Church, as our faith based on our triune God and together with the faithful, open to all men and women. Synodality is the MODUS of living the COMMUNIO. And the basis of this is baptism. Some considerations from my experience: I underline the decentralisation, the fact that Europe is no longer the centre of the Church, this is evident in the daily life of synod, the Commission of the European Conferences in fact has not had a potential similar to that of Celam, or those of Asia or Africa, we are lagging behind in the experiences of synodality, we need encouragement, the Commission of the European Conferences has not managed to have a relevant word in common with regard to refugees. Another aspect that we discovered in this Synod has to do with the Eastern Churches that live synodality and ecclesiology in a very natural way. At this stage of the synod, we have at heart a faith that is celebrated before it is celebrated”.

AGUIAR RETES: “I start from 2012, from my first synod experience, when its conclusion was that the transmission of the faith was fractured. This was noted, and so it was that Pope Francis called his first synod and dedicated it to the family. There we saw the need to reach out to the new generations, and then we had the synod of young people; I did the same in my first diocese. I am convinced of the power of transmitting the faith through the young people who live it. Then I worked on the synod of Amazonia. We had to take advantage of the sensitivity of children and young people to ecology and from there discover God. In 2019, I came to Rome and I told the Pope that I wanted to start a synodal process in Mexico, which we finally started in 2021 because of the pandemic. We have already visited 416 parishes where we demanded that they hold plenary assemblies; not all of them have done so. In June 2023 we finish the pastoral visits. Living synodality, I am seeing that this is the way of the Church” [he says emphatically].

AVELINE: “It’s my first synod. I experience it as an adventure. I came here with my own curiosity. After almost a month, we are discovering a lot of things. Another emotion I am experiencing: is the seriousness of the fact that our world is in crisis. We can’t get bogged down in small things. We must act in a good spirit that leads to the love of God. In my country, they did not realise the importance of this synod. There are many ways to participate at this moment. This morning, Father Radcliffe reminded us that we have many expectations at stake here: joys, sorrows, and emotions. The important things for me: are the arrangement of the room in the round, the spiritual conversation, the prayer, and the freedom of expression. Now we have to find agreement on the outstanding issues to be explored; then we have to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Cardinal Aveline, born in former French Algeria, quoted Father Radcliffe in his allegory of seeds. I share the core of that idea in the following paragraph from Radcliffe’s speech this morning: “In a few days’ time, we will return home for eleven months. This will seemingly be a time of empty waiting. But it will probably be the most fertile time of the Synod, the time of germination. (…) We have heard hundreds of thousands of words over the last three weeks. At times, we have thought: ‘Too many!’. Most of them have been positive words, words of hope and aspiration. They are the seeds that are sown in the soil of the Church. They will work in our lives, in our imagination, and in our subconscious, during these months. When the time comes, they will bear fruit”. (Spiritual input from Fr Timothy Radcliffe: The seed germinates, Monday 23 October 2023, Synod Hall of Synodality) Aveline continues: “We have to explain what we did in this period of germination and be all ears to what is sprouting.

RIGÓN: “It is my first synod. A very enriching experience because it made me touch with my hand the universality of the Church where all the baptised have a role to play. It is also an invitation to humility: I can contribute my grain of sand to this beautiful mosaic. Some strong words that resonate in me: the fatigue of charity; hope in Christ Jesus; this is already a revolution, we are receiving an important seed; today I am beginning to be a different Christian, and this will help us to renew the Church; I was struck by the reflections of Father Radcliffe and Sister Maria Ignacia, words of gift incarnated in prophetic voices; the image of the pregnant woman was used; we walk a human and divine Church; we can have words of poison. And a phrase that accompanies me throughout this journey: what can I do as a consecrated Christian to make a better world for everyone?”


In the space for questions from fellow journalists who are also covering this synod, the following topics were asked:

– Will what was said at this synod be noted in the future, should spiritual conversation be adopted as a method, is there consensus on this method, will it be applied in all strata or will it only be for synodal assemblies
– Date of the publication of the final document of this synod,
– This synod is less so because of the participation of lay women and men,
– Without synodality there are divisions, synodality gives more strength so that the Church remains united,
– Language within the catechism that does not hurt LGTBQ people,
– Role of theologians in the synod.

I am left with two answers:
RUFFINI: “This Saturday the Final Document will be voted on and on the evening of the same Saturday it will be published”.
SCHÖNBORN: “If only there was a method like this [spiritual conversation based on listening and prayer] at the United Nations!”

Virginia Bonard – Correspondent