A fascinating place to start studying what is happening in the Synod Hall as the Synod Fathers and invited guests meet on the vast theme of the family is to visit the Facebook pages or Twitter accounts of some of the participants. One of the more interesting by far is the Facebook page of Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia: https://www.facebook.com/ArchbishopMarkColeridge

As you start to read his account of Day 2 of the synod, you are brought here – http://brisbanecatholic.org.au/articles/time-to-speak/ – to the archdiocese of Brisbane where Abp. Coleridge continues his story, an insider’s account of what bishops are feeling and saying and observing and have questions about.

Here is Abp. Mark Coleridge’s diary of a day in the synod:

On the Road Together – A time to speak

October 6, 2015

The sun rises on Synod Day 2.

In the afternoon yesterday we began the long haul of the three-minute interventions, with Cardinal Vingt-Trois beginning with the very lengthy list of those who’d been called to speak. The two Kiwis and I were among those called, so we all rushed to our bag to find our text, hoping we hadn’t left it back at the house.

The procession of speeches was rapid-fire compared with earlier Synods. Many of the speakers – including myself remarkably – were under the three-minute limit. I must have spoken faster than I planned. But it’s hard to be substantial in such a short space: you can certainly say something, but it has to be very concise. Bit like a Tweet. It’s clear even now that the real action of the Synod won’t be in these short speeches but in the more ample work of the small groups that begin today.

After the long series of speeches, we began the last hour of what’s called free discussion. It’s not all that free, with some of the speakers actually reading texts which is not exactly my sense of what free discussion means. My view is that texts shouldn’t be allowed in that hour’s discussion. We don’t need more set-piece speeches, especially given that there’s a four-minute limit for the free discussion. It just means longer speeches.

But there were some lively unscripted interventions, which showed that this hour at the end of the day could be important. The interventions showed that there are still uncertainties about the new format and its workability. The Secretary General, Cardinal Baldisseri, gave a long and impassioned defence of the format proposed, so we’ll see how it works out.

Another uncertainty that was expressed concerned the ordering of the three-part Instrumentum Laboris which structures the three weeks of the Synod. Some speakers were uneasy about the way the Instrumentum Laboris (and hence Week 1 of the Synod) begins with anthropological and sociological observations on the family and then, only in the second part, moves to consider the family in the light of our experience of God. Some felt we should begin with God. It’s the old argument about whether an inductive or deductive approach is better. I’m not sure it matters where you start; what matters is where you end up.

The free discussion also made clear that there are different political currents at work in the Synod. Given all that happened in the lead-up, that’s no surprise. Some, it seems, are unhappy with parts of the Instrumentum Laboris, others with the make-up of the group of 10 who will supervise the production of the Synod’s final document. Others again are uneasy about the impression given by the presentation of Cardinal Erdo in the morning that some key questions are already decided and seemingly off the table. They felt that such a stance was premature. All of this will feed into the messier but probably more productive work of the small groups where more voices will be heard in a freer setting in which we will be able not just to make statements but to discuss issues.

It will pass eventually into the hands of Pope Francis who was in the Hall for the whole day, keeping his head down following the papers (and monitor) in front of him, listening carefully and barely raising his head through the sessions. But he’s also hard at work outside the sessions, as you can see from this shot of him entering the Hall for the afternoon sessions. He’s always tapping someone on the shoulder for a quick word; and you can bet they’re not discussing the weather.



I really love this! I have joined together two recent tweets Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa: https://twitter.com/CardinalNapier

One who works with his hands is a labourer. One who works with his hands & head is a craftsman. One who works with his hands, head & heart is an artist.


This afternoon the Synod Fathers and invited guests moved into small language group discussions, following the General Congregations of Monday and of Tuesday morning where a total of 72 Synod Father gaves talks, each limited to just three minutes.

A press briefing was held at 1 pm in the Holy See Press Office. It was moderated by Fr. Federico Lombardi, in the presence of two Synod Fathers, Archbishops Claudio Maria Celli of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, and translators for English, French, Spanish and German.

Fr. Lombardi noted the Pope’s presence at this morning’s General Congregation and that he asked to speak briefly, following remarks by Cardinal Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, who had previously explained “certain processes of the methodology” of the synod and new elements. In fact, some of the “new elements” in the synod process were troubling to many Synod Fathers, especially those who had attended previous synods. (photo news.va)POPE SYNOD DAY 2

Fr. Lombardi said, “The Holy Father thought it important to say that what we are doing here must be seen as a continuation of last year.” The Pope stressed that the group work is going to be very important. Francis also reminded the Fathers that “Catholic doctrine on marriage was not called into question in the previous sitting of the Synod” and that “the Synod is not about one single issue – Eucharist for the divorced and remarried – but many issues and we must take them all into account.”

Three of the issues troubling Synod Fathers about the new synod process include: the absence of an interim report, the fact that the speeches in the synod hall will not be released, so the public will not have a chance to read what participants actually said but will have to rely on press conferences and briefings and, perhaps the most worrisome matter: there will be no concluding propositions voted on by the bishops.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, an English-speaking assistant to Fr. Lombardi, said the comments made by the Synod Fathers were brief, as three minutes is the maximum time. One Father called this a “tweet-like speech time.”

It was noted at the briefing that some participants were disturbed by the fact that so much emphasis seemed to be brought to bear on the negatives involving family and marriage –divorce, communion for the divorced and remarried, etc. Fr. Rosica said, in his summary of the General Congregation, that one of the Fathers suggested that we acknowledge the “beauty and joy” of family life. He added: “Some of the interventions suggested we should be more inclusionary in our language, especially in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Gay persons are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, neighbors and colleagues.”

Asked if the question of the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to communion was still open to discussion. Archbishop Celli said that the issue was open. A number of both participants and members of the media felt that Cardinal Peter Erdo, in his talk yesterday, had closed the door to certain topics, or that he was suggesting some solutions had already been found.

Another journalist asked if the reception of the Eucharist by divorced and remarried persons was a “doctrine or a discipline.” Archbishop Durocher replied by saying that different people may see this differently and that it was part of the work of the Synod to discuss this. He did say that the bishops are united in acknowledging that there is a gap between contemporary culture and church teaching.

Archbishop Celli agreed, adding it was important for the church to find ways of entering into dialogue with the world. “We need to speak about what the Church teaches but must also avoid a ghetto mentality.”

Fr. Lombardi was asked if Pope Francis was going to participate in a small group. He said that the Pope did not normally attend small groups but that he was a Pope of surprises so “he may also surprise us!”