When one is not gifted with the grace of bi-location, covering a synod can be a real challenge.

You see, a journalist:

  1.       Wants to be outside the synod hall in the fenced-in area for the media where you try to shout greetings to prelates you know or want to know or at least take a few important photos: You can do this at least once a day but will probably meet more people if you stand there at least twice daily, such when the synod fathers arrive at the morning and afternoon sessions and then leave both sessions;
  2.      Wants to attend the daily briefings, normally scheduled for 1 pm in the Holy See Press Office: they can last as little as an hour or well over 90 minutes. In any case, if you have lunch, it will be a late lunch. Now, there is an alternative: stay at home or in your office and watch online. But most likely you have stayed at home because you are trying to write an article from a previous interview or you are trying to prepare a new interview – but how do you listen attentively to the press briefing (where some interesting things can be learned) AND write a thoughtful, comprehensive piece, blog, daily column, script for radio or TV, etc.?
  3.       If you do attend the press briefing, you then have to write your column and that might take considerable time to do well (reading your notes, translating the shorthand, etc.). You will probably do this as you eat a snack from the press office vending machine. However, if you eat a really decent lunch, the writing will be put off.
  4.      But you can’t put off the writing because you have a 4:30 appointment to interview a prelate. Do you prepare your press briefing column or make sure the interview is well prepared? Is there time to do both? Something might give along the way.
  5.       If everything actually falls into place (and by the way, I did not include the time it takes to download photos, selecting a few for your column, and/or listening to your recording of the press conference or an interview) by late evening you will have accomplished most of the day’s objectives and then, feeling you deserve a really good break, you seek a really good meal, preferably breaking bread with friends and colleagues who have shared the same daily schedule.
  6.      Things should and probably will work out with some level of determination and organization but it is always the little extras that can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back: the “extras” like meeting deadlines for two weekly television shows and three radio programs or having to re-arrange schedules to accommodate an interviewee who has to change his/her schedule, or an unexpected assignment from your editor. My “extra” today was an almost daylong repair job on the centralized satellite we have in our Vatican-owned apartment building. I’ve been without a great number of channels, including EWTN, for several months. A technician came at 10:30 am and left a little after 5:30 pm but he did solve the problem. I had to be available part of the time as the technician needed to check damage and/or repairs against my TV. In any case, I can now watch EWTN’s nightly show on the synod at 7 pm, instead of streaming on my iPad (but thank the Lord for little favors!)
  7.      And the synod days will pass – not as rapidly as one might like – but we are now, after all, in the third and final week of this marathon synod on the family that ends – at least here in Rome – on Sunday, October 25. Deo gratias for endings!


Archbishops Enrico Solmi of Italy, Mark Coleridge of Australia and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Beatitude Fouad Twal, answered questions from the media at the daily press briefing on the Synod of the Family. Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, explained that the delegates were meeting in small groups on Monday and Tuesday so there will be no report until Wednesday of the discussions that were underway. The three prelates answered a number of questions which mainly focussed on the admission of the divorced and civilly remarried to Communion.

Bishops arrive at the synod hall for meetings (photo:

bishops arrive for synod

Following is a report by Vatican Radio’s Fr. Russell Politt, SJ

“Discernment is always messy and uncertain,” said Archbishop Coleridge. He went on to say that despite the mess and the challenges the Synod faces, he is confident that deep down something is moving. Coleridge said that he thought Pope Francis’ address at Saturday’s celebration marking 50 years of the institution of the Synod of Bishops was a key moment and that he hoped what the Pope said would be taken forward.

Archbishop Solmi said that climate at the Synod was one of listening and expressing things openly which included different opinions and nuances. He said that a fundamental aspect of the Synod was to try and look at the family through the eyes of God. Solmi said that he really thinks the Synod understands a sense of Catholicism – the universal Church meeting and sharing their lived experiences from all over the world.

All three prelates spoke of the importance of being in touch with human experience. Coleridge said that often bishops can indulge in “Church-speak” that is truly beautiful but abstract and doesn’t touch people in their reality. He underlined that this was a pastoral synod. We need theology but we also need to be deeply in touch with human experience, he added.

Beatitude Twal, speaking on the admission of the divorced and civilly married to Communion, said that this is a very serious and complicated discussion. He said that in no way can we generalise, sometimes there may be no sin but “a lack of order” and so we have to look at these issues very closely. Coleridge said that if a second marriage is good, stable and the children were well cared for, then we need to see if there is some pastoral solution that can be used. He added that there are many people who are alienated from the Church and so it’s important that we go to them and reach out.

Solmi said that people may be living in a situation that is not God’s will for them. He said that there may be sin but we need to remember that we are dealing with the reality of peoples lives and that accompanying them means listening and embarking upon a path of discernment.

The prelates were asked how they are dealing with three vexed questions which seem to be central to the narrative around the Synod: the admission of the divorce and civilly remarried to communion, homosexuality and cohabitation. Twal said that he did not believe these were central. He said that these were not the items of the Synod but amongst items being discussed at the Synod. He mentioned other issues like war and poverty. He said that even with much goodwill on the part of the Synod delegates, they are aware of their limits and that they cannot solve all the issues before them. He said that in his part of the world he does not have the same problems as the West.

Coleridge said that there will be no substantial change in Church teaching on these issues. He said that, hopefully, there will be a movement to a new, genuine, pastoral approach to things. He said the approach requires new language, a language that listens. He said that although the Church may understand a certain language – like “love the sinner but not the sin” or “intrinsically disordered” – this no longer communicates with the people of our times. It would be helpful to find others words to express truths that are more positive. He asked if there was another way, for example, that the Church could express “indissolubility” more positively.

The bishops said that they were working hard, and feeling tired, trying to put together a report that could be presented to the Pope. They said that they would give their recommendations to him but that, in the end, the Holy Father will decide on the way forward.



“We’re caught at the moment between Abraham and Moses. All of the bishops have a bit of both in them, but some are more Mosaic than Abrahamic, others more Abrahamic than Mosaic. Let’s hope the two patriarchs can embrace by week’s end.”

October 19, 2015 – Abp. Mark Coleridge, Brisbane, Australia

Yesterday, being Sunday, was free from Synod commitments. But that didn’t mean free from praying and eating – both of which are done in considerable quantities during the Synod, free day or not. I had two invitations for Mass – one to the Domus Australia where Cardinal Pell was celebrating the fourth anniversary of the Aussie house in Rome, the other the Canonisation Mass in St Peter’s Square. I decided the Square was closer, so over I went with Bishop Hurley to join the mob of of bishops who gathered around the Pope as he declared four blesseds – among them the parents of Therese of Lisieux – to be saints.

These papal occasions have about them a grand formality, at least out in the Square. But things are a little less formal, in fact a bit messy, in the Basilica where the bishops vest. It’s very pleasant to have, as it were, the run of St Peter’s without the vast crowds that throng through it from day to day.

We were vesting in the chapel of St Gregory Nazianzen who, by the way, hated episcopal synods and councils and thought that no good ever came of them. He retired from his see early to produce some of the most memorable theology ever written. Nearby was the chapel of Pope St John XXIII and he, of course, loved synods and councils. All the bishops stopped before his tomb to seek his intercession as the start of the final week of this Synod. I certainly did, in part because I think this Synod is more directly linked to Vatican II than any other Synod through the last 50 years.

Continue with this fascinating insider’s look here: