Synod on Synodality Leaders:Full List of Delegates for October Assembly still Under review

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich (right), relator general of Synod on Synodality, speaks to the media on June 20, 2023, at the temporary headquarters of the Holy See Press Office in Vatican City. Beside him is Cardinal Mario Grech, the Secretary General for the Synod of Bishops. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Organizers of the Synod on Synodality on Tuesday announced a change of venue for the upcoming synodal assembly of bishops and other delegates being held in October but said that the full list of those participating in the monthlong event is still being prepared.

The June 20 media briefing was held at the Holy See Press Office to present the synod’s Instrumentum Laboris, a document released earlier in the day that outlines key questions for the upcoming synod discussions.

Both this year’s assembly and a final one set for October 2024 will be held in a Vatican auditorium and not in the synod hall as customary.

The location was chosen to provide more space. To better facilitate discussion, participants will sit at round tables in the Paul VI Hall, where Pope Francis sometimes holds large audiences, explained Father Giacomo Costa, SJ, a consultor to the Secretariat General of the Synod.

The New Synod Hall, where recent synodal assemblies have been held, has a capacity of just under 300 people. Synod leadership said in April the total participation at this October’s assembly is expected to be about 370 people, approximately 79% of whom will be bishops.


Costa said seating people around tables would also make the transitions between plenary sessions and small groups, called Circuli Minores, easier.

For the first time, laypeople will not only participate in the assembly, they also will be full members, with the ability to vote on a final document at the end of the process in October 2024.

Cardinal Mario Grech, the head of the Vatican’s synod office, said the full list of members is still being prepared and will be published once Pope Francis has had a chance to see it and give his approval.

The release of the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document for the upcoming 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, signals the beginning of a new phase of the Catholic Church’s multiyear Synod on Synodality. Drawing on listening sessions already conducted worldwide at the diocesan, national, and continental level, it covers such hot-button topics as women deacons, priestly celibacy, LGBTQ outreach, and highlights a desire for new institutional bodies to allow for greater participation in decision-making by the “people of God.”

Costa said Tuesday there is a “tight connection” between the methodology of the synod assembly and the Instrumentum Laboris, which is broken into two sections, the second of which is made up of 15 worksheets with discussion questions.

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Organizers of the Synod on Synodality speak to the media on June 20, 2023, at the temporary headquarters of the Holy See Press Office. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, relator of the Synod on Synodality, said at the presentation the worksheet questions are not intended to be filled out like homework and that other questions may even emerge during discussions.

In a change from recent synods, Pope Francis has broken the general assembly into two sessions: One to be held in October 2023 and the second to be held in October 2024.

Grech said conclusions will be reached only after the second session in 2024. At the end of the first session this year, the synod leadership will propose to participants some ideas for what to do in between the two sessions.

The cardinal emphasized that the secretariat will share its ideas “but it will not impose them.”


Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, relator general of Synod on Synodality, speaks to the media on June 20, 2023, at the temporary headquarters of the Holy See Press Office in Vatican City. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

The synod leaders continued to stress that there is no preset agenda or political bent to the Synod on Synodality and that it does not function like a parliament.

“The greatest concern of the Synod Secretariat and mine personally has been to always respect what emerged from the stages of the synod process,” Grech said.

“What is written here is not what we all first believe must enter this document. This is what was said by people,” Hollerich said. “And we have to be faithful to the mission we have received.”

The cardinal said the synod does “not speak about the Church’s teaching — that is not our task and not our mission — we just welcome everybody who wants to walk with us.”

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Grech, too, said “we need the synodal Church to be a Church that can announce the Gospel, that can really pave the way so that Christ can meet humanity today. And who needs Christ? The wounded, the sinners, all of us. So don’t be amazed when we say that we want to create spaces to welcome all. And please also keep in mind that at times we are really judgmental, we rush to judge people. Let us leave the judgment to the Lord.”

Hollerich said the German Synodal Way was not taken in any way as a model for the universal synodal process.

“We speak about communion and we are at the service of communion,” he said. “I think the two — without judging what has been done in Germany — I think the two initiatives are very, very different.”

In prepared remarks at the presentation, Grech said the Instrumentum Laboris “is a text in which no one’s voice is missing: that of the holy people of God; of the pastors, who ensured ecclesial discernment with their participation; of the pope, who always accompanied us, supported us, encouraged us to go forward.”

“That is why,” he continued, “I like to conclude that the Instrumentum Laboris is not a document of the Holy See, it is not a document of the Holy See but of the whole Church. It is not a document written on the desk. It is a document in which everyone is a co-author, each for the part he is called to play in the Church, in docility to the Spirit.”

Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.