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Pope creates study groups to explore themes from Synod’s first session

The General Secretariat of the Synod announced on Saturday that Pope Francis has set the dates for the second session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly, which will take place from Wednesday, October 2, to Sunday, October 27, 2024.

The session will continue the work of the Synod on synodality on the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”

It will be preceded by two days of spiritual retreat, from September 30 to October 1, with participants arriving in Rome on September 29.

Also on Saturday, Pope Francis released a chirograph establishing the creation of study groups to delve into some of the themes that emerged in the first Synod session.

The study groups will be formed among the competent dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the General Secretariat of the Synod, which will coordinate them.

In the chirograph dedicated to the collaboration between the curial dicasteries and the Secretariat of the Synod, Pope Francis recalls that the constitution on the Roman Curia Praedicate Evangelium states that the “life of communion makes the Church synodal.”

The chirograph reiterates that the duties of the General Secretariat of the Synod, which depends directly on the Pontiff and “supports and accompanies the synodal process as established from time to time,” include promoting the relationships between various bishops and local Churches in a synodal spirit and in communion with the Bishop of Rome.

The chirograph concludes by establishing that “the dicasteries of the Roman Curia collaborate, according to their respective specific competences, in the activity of the General Secretariat of the Synod, forming study groups that shall begin, following the synodal method, an in-depth study of some of the themes that emerged” in the first session of the Synod.

“These study groups are to be established by mutual agreement between the competent dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the General Secretariat of the Synod, to which coordination is entrusted,” reads the chirograph.

The document “Towards October 2024” by the General Secretariat of the Synod, published on December 11, 2023, already emphasized that the next session would focus on how to live synodality at all levels in the Church.

This new papal document clarifies that some of the most significant themes which emerged from listening to the Churches will require a substantial amount of time for theological, canonical, and pastoral reflection.

Following the synodal process, the study of these themes will involve experts from all continents and the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, according to their competences.

However, the chirograph defines neither which study groups to establish nor which themes they will explore.

The synthesis report approved by vote at the end of last October’s session indicated several themes, such as the need to update some canonical norms, formation of ordained ministers, relationships between bishops and religious orders, and theological and pastoral research on the diaconate.

The study groups, as inferred from the document of the General Secretariat published in December and from Saturday’s papal chirograph, will serve as useful tools to assist the universal Church’s reflections on various topics.

They will not, however, directly constitute the material up for discussion at the next session of the Synod, which will focus on synodality itself, an expression of communion in the Church.

Finally, the General Secretariat of the Synod, led by Cardinal Mario Grech, will coordinate the work of the study groups among the dicasteries. As an entity, the Secretariat is not part of the Roman Curia but rather reports directly to the Pope.

New consultants appointed
Also on Saturday, Pope Francis appointed 6 new consultants to the General Secretariat of the Synod, in addition to the current ten.

The new consultants are: Monsignor Alphonse Borras, Episcopal Vicar of the Diocese of Liège (Belgium); Gilles Routhier, professor of Theology at Université Laval (Canada); Ormond Rush, associate professor of Theology at Australian Catholic University; Sister Birgit Weiler, M.M.S., professor of Theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru; Professor Tricia C. Bruce, president-elect of the Association for the Sociology of Religion; and, Maria Clara Lucchetti Bingemer, professor of Theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.

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