Yesterday, the synod delegates formed into our third of four small groups. Today marks the halfway point of our gathering and work. 

In October of 1962, Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council. Days later the world watched nervously as the Cuban Missile Crisis unfolded between the two nuclear superpowers, The United States and the Soviet Union. Sixty one years later, here we are now with a substantial Synod underway during a time of war.

There are many places of war and unrest in the world today, from Sudan to Myanmar, as well as the war Russia is waging in and against Ukraine. In addition, last weekend a new war erupted in Israel with the despicable and condemnable actions of the terrorist group Hamas, who kidnapped and killed so many innocent civilians, including children and elderly in Israel, as well as Israeli soldiers.

Every day in the Synod Hall begins with prayer, and we all have heavy hearts as we call to mind the many people who have died and been displaced, along with those living in fear and captivity. The list of suffering is much more detailed, but suffice it to say there are many people and places in need of our prayers. Of great importance is the prayer for peace in our world, and our synod delegates make this an earnest prayer in these days, and I invite you to join us with your prayers as well.

On to an update on our work in the Synod …

Our prayer each day, and throughout each day is asking the Lord to pour out the Holy Spirit upon our Universal Church, and especially upon the Synod delegates and our discussions and discernments. While Pope Francis called the Church to ‘pause’ during this time, to create ‘space’ for the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church, pause is not exactly the word I would use for our very busy days, but it is giving us the ‘space’ and ‘environment’ to peacefully and prayerfully carry out the work of the synod, and we are grateful for everyone’s patience and prayers for this important process.

To give you a high-level view of the topics of our discussions, I point you to the Instrumentum Laboris, or the working document for the Synod. Our initial working group gave each of us an opportunity to share a synthesis of the topics and themes of the people each of us are here to represent. It is important that everyone understand that this point has been raised several times in the past two weeks to remind the delegates to keep us mindful that we are not here representing only our ideas. We are to keep the people we represent always in mind.

The title of the Synod: For a Synodal Church; Communion, Participation, Mission helps the outsider looking in have a glimpse of the overall themes for our discussion. As one follows the working document, the more delineated questions for discernment are clearly stated.

Our work, always conducted in prayer, with a special attention to invoking the Holy Spirit, is precisely to implore the Lord to make known the desire of God for our Church today. The Holy Spirit from the very beginning of the Church, indeed from the beginning of creation to the Annunciation and Incarnation, through the life and ministry of Jesus to his Resurrection from the dead, from Pentecost onwards has always animated the life of the People of God. This is what we seek! 

Chinese Bishop Anthony Yao Shun of Jining, one of two bishops from mainland China participating in the assembly of the Synod of Bishops, speaks with other members before the afternoon session Oct. 13, 2023, in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

There have been many graces these past few weeks, among them is the opportunity to hear about the life of the Church in every corner of the world. Some of that happens in small group discussions and in small group reports to the general assembly. Some of it also happens in the many conversations over meals and breaks. For instance, here is a picture of my conversation with two bishops from China and their translator. I’ve interacted with Bishops and representatives from Singapore, East Timor, Australia, Central Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, India and all over Europe. Fascinating!

By now, probably every delegate has had a chance to greet personally Pope Francis, including myself. Please keep those prayers coming.

Come, Holy Spirit!

Photo courtesy of and with permission; copyright Vatican Media