During the nearly monthlong Vatican assembly, the delegates will discuss questions posed in the recently released Instrumentum laboris, which 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.”
The 50-page text also outlines a “synodal method” of spirituality focused on listening to the Holy Spirit and “discerning the signs of the times” and calls for new formation programs to train candidates for ordained ministry “in a synodal style and mentality.”
German bishops participating in the assembly include German Bishops Conference (DBK) president Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, Bishop Franz-Joseph Overbeck of Essen, and Bishop Bertram Johannes Meier of Augsburg, who were selected as DBK representatives, and papal picks Bishop Felix Genn of Münster and Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, as well as Cardinal Mueller. Oster is one of four German bishops who recently voted to block funding the next stage of the controversial German synodal reform process.
More than 50 women will be participating as voting members in the synod assembly scheduled for Oct. 4-29 at the Vatican. Among them is Nicaraguan Sister Xiskya Valladares, known as the tweeting nun, who is a professor and journalist based in Spain and is a cofounder of iMision, an organization seeking to support the presence of the Church in the digital world.
Among the lay delegates selected by the pope are Americans Cynthia Bailey Manns, the director of adult learning at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Community in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Wyatt Olivas, a young adult musician from Cheyenne, Wyoming. The lay delegates from Europe include Enrique Alarcón Garcia, president of the Spain-based Christian Fraternity of Persons with Disabilities.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, SJ, and Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga will be among the cardinals nominated by the pope to attend the synod assembly. Cardinal Charles Muang Bo of Yangon, Bishop Stephen Chow of Hong Kong, Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney will also participate.
Irish-American Cardinal Kevin Farrell will participate as a delegate from the Roman Curia and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark is automatically a delegate as an ordinary member of the synod council.
Jesuit Superior General Arturo Sosa and Sister Elizabeth Mary Davis, R.S.M. are among the delegates representing religious orders.
Father Timothy Radcliffe, OP, a prominent British theologian who has drawn criticism by some for his statements on homosexuality, is listed as a spiritual assistant, a non-voting position in the Synod on Synodality. Radcliffe, who served as master of the Order of Preachers from 1992 to 2001, will also lead a three-day retreat for all of the synod participants ahead of the assembly.
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 in October 2024.