ROME: Pope to Appoint 70 Non-Bishop Members, Grants Voting Rights to Women and Youth at Synodal Assembly in October

By Paschal Norbert

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 28, 2023 (CISA) – Pope Francis has decided to amend the composition of the Synodal Assembly to include 70 non-bishop members; priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, and lay women and men, with a right to vote in the upcoming General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October.

According to a communique issued by the General Secretariat of the Synod, the modifications to the participants and composition of the Synodal Assembly are based on the Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis Communio, and “will not, however, change the episcopal nature of the Assembly.”

The first modification states that archdioceses that are not part of an Episcopal Conference may elect a bishop and the second modification directs that the ten clerics belonging to Institutes of Consecrated Life, elected by the respective organizations representing the Superiors General, will no longer be present at the assembly.

“They have been replaced by five women religious and five men religious belonging to Institutes of Consecrated Life, elected by the respective organizations representing the Superiors General. As members they have the right to vote,” the secretariat explained.

The third modification that will see the pope appoint 70 non-bishop members, half of whom he has requested to be women and also to include young people, directs regional episcopal conferences to propose names of individuals “who represent various groupings of the faithful of the People of God (priests, consecrated women, deacons, lay faithful) and who come from the local Churches.”

“They will be chosen by the Pope from among a list of 140 people selected (and not elected) by the five International Reunions of Bishops’ Conferences (CELAM, CCEE, SECAM, FABC, FCBCO), the Assembly of Patriarchs of Eastern Catholic Churches and, jointly, by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Canada (20 for each of these ecclesial realities). The territorial distribution adopted for the celebration of the Continental Synodal Assemblies of the Continental Stage was followed. It is requested that 50% of them be women and that the presence of young people also be emphasised. In selecting them, account is taken not only of their general culture and prudence but also of their knowledge, both theoretical and practical, as well as their participation in various capacities in the synod process. As members, they have the right to vote,” the secretariat stated.

In a press conference to announce the papal decision on April 26, Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the General Secretariat of the Synod, and Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, Archbishop of Luxembourg and General Rapporteur of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, advanced that the decision “is in continuity with the progressive appropriation of the constitutive synodal dimension of the Church and the consequent understanding of the institutions through which it is exercised.”

“It is therefore in the role/function of memory that the presence of non-bishops is included, and not in that of representation. In this way, the specifically episcopal nature of the Synodal Assembly is not affected, but rather is confirmed. This is shown first of all by the numerical ratio between bishops and non-bishops, the latter being less than 25% of the total number of Assembly members. But above all this is shown by the way in which the non-bishops are appointed: in fact, they are not elected by some demos or coetus, whose representation they would take on, but are appointed by the Holy Father on the proposal of the bodies through which episcopal collegiality is realized at the level of continental areas, rooting their presence in the exercise of pastoral discernment,” they said.

The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, commonly referred to as the Synod on synodality, is an upcoming synod of bishops of the Catholic Church which will conclude in October 2024 and has as its theme “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission”