WelCom May 2023
The Synod of Bishops will include female voting members for the first time, Synod organisers revealed last month in a landmark development for the Church’s Synod process.
The Secretariat for the Synod announced that 70 ‘non-bishop members’ appointed directly by the Pope – half of whom will be women – will be able to vote at the Synod General Assembly in October.
The changes mean 75 per cent of the voting Synod assembly this October will be bishops and 25 per cent non-bishops.
The changes were presented by Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Secretariat for the Synod, and Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the Synod’s General Relator.
‘This is not a revolution but an important change; they specified at a press conference at the Holy See Press Office on 26 April.
These 70 individuals will include lay people, 50 per cent of whom shall be women and among whom shall be included several young people. All 70 will enjoy voting rights at the Assembly, which will consist of around 370 voting members out of more than 400 total participants.
The 70 non-bishop members will be chosen by the Pope from a list of 140 prepared by the seven International Reunions of Bishops’ Conferences and the Assembly of Patriarchs of Eastern Catholic Churches.
Pope Francis has approved changes to allow lay women, including religious sisters, and lay men, to take part as full members of the Synod summit in October, emphasising it restores a model of the Church as the ‘People of God’ and where the hierarchy is in close relationship with the laity.
Pope St Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops in 1965, at the end of the Second Vatican Council, and since then its gatherings have been made up of bishops, ordained presbyters and male religious.
Women have only ever taken part as ‘auditors’ or observers without the right to vote on its outcomes.
The changes are seen as a move by the Synod away from a gathering of the hierarchy towards a Synod of the people.
Pope Francis launched a global ‘Synod on synodality’ process in October 2021, which has seen an unprecedented consultation of the worldwide Church and will culminate in two Vatican summits in October 2023 and October 2024.
The latest decision comes as the Synod completes the continental phase of the process, with a working document for the October 2023 meeting expected to be released at the end of May.
Source: Vatican News