The cast of characters writing the final document is chosen; Auditor says no talk of women; Archbishop says I would welcome women voting

The cast who will draft the final document for a vote has been chosen, some by election by the synod participants, some chosen by Francis, and others structurally part of the process.

Elected by synod fathers

Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes of Mexico, a friend of Francis who worked closely with him on the Aparacida document, and, chosen by Pope Francis to be at the synod.

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, Prefect of the Vatican dicastery for Integral Human Development.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of India and C9 advisor.

Archbishop Bruno Forte of Italy, a member of the synod’s organizing council.

Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne, also chosen by Francis to attend.

Part of the synod structure

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops,

Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha of Brazil, general relator of the synod.

Chosen by Francis

Father Giacomo Costa was chosen by Francis to attend and will serve as a secretary.

Father Rossano Sala will also serve as secretary.

Brazilian Father Alexandre Awi Mello, secretary for the Vatican’s dicastery for Laity, Family and Life was also chosen by Francis to be on the writing committee.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was chosen by Francis for the committee work.

Father Eduardo Gonzalo Redondo, head of vocations ministry in Cuba was chosen by Francis for the committee work.

As Elise Harris reminds us, the names on the drafting committee were a major point of contention during the 2014-2015 Synod of Bishops on the family.  Those who did not want to see concessions  to divorced and remarried Catholics on communion accused Pope Francis of stacking the deck.

Today’s Press Briefing

Today, along with bookends Greg Burke and Paolo Ruffini, Briana Regina Santiago, a 27 year old auditor from San Antonio, Texas,  Cardinal Aguiar Retes of Mexico, and Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.I. of Luxembourg sat at the briefing table.

Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of Communications, offered a few extraordinary phrases gleaned from the morning meeting.

He said synod participants were concerned about seminary formation and the need for  seminarians to be rooted in community life.  They noted that parents do not want their children to become priests.

In terms of accompaniment of young people on their faith journeys, Ruffini quoted a participant saying, “Jesus is a demanding friend.”

In speaking about the digital age, some asked,  “Where is the search engine for God?” and that “God should not be reduced to a Google God.”

Ruffini also reported that synod participants want to expose the God who is not tamed nor domesticated.

When asked about whether the two Chinese bishops who had been asked to come to the synod would be able to stay until the end, Ruffini replied that the Vatican always knew they would not be able to stay for the entire month.

Briana Regina Santiago, who gave the inaugural address to synod participants on the opening day, struck me today with her utter composition and confidence.

She spoke of a joyful collaboration among the 22 synod fathers, 7 young people, and 1 fraternal delegate in her group. She said their laughter could be heard down the hall.

Briana also said that she was surprised by the level of input young people could give in the small circles.  She described discussions that were “varied with vast participation of young people.”

In describing the experience, Briana used the words, “camaraderie, respect, wisdom, and truth.”

Sh emphasized that she was learning a lot, especially from those whose experiences were vastly different from her own.

She finished her comments saying, “We young, are a people full of hope.  I hope this spreads out through all the world.”

After the press briefing, I had a chance to ask Briana if young people were talking about the roles of women in the church and women’s participation in the governance structures.

She said that she has not heard anyone talking about it at the synod.

When I asked how she felt about the level of women’s participation in the Church, she said she is quite satisfied as she is quite involved in the church.

She also said she believes the synod process is a sign that the church is very interested in what young people and what young women want.

I reflected on her words and recognized that I was hoping she would be more aware of the gulf between consultation and authority; the privilege and excitement of being chosen to be a part of  a synod and the experience of many young women who stand outside seeking so much more in their church; and, the chasm between women’s opportunities in society and women’s opportunities in the church.

And, even as those thoughts filled my mind and heart, there surged in me feelings of protectiveness for her and for each young person as they sort out their life path. I realized that above all, I felt admiration for her — the kind I have felt for my own children — as they test the wisdom of their parents and other adults against their own life experiences.

Cardinal Aguilar Retes is a Francis cardinal, appointed in 2016.  He was vice-president of CELAM from 2003 to 2007 and worked closely with Jorge Bergoglio to develop the Aparecedia document, said to be the forerunner of Evangelii Gaudium, the Pope’s blueprint for the Church with its laser beam focus on the needs of the poor, exhortations for Christians to establish and maintain just economic, political, and legal structures; and the necessity of  pastoral care for God’s people over doctrinal rigidity.

Today, the cardinal made some general comments about the synod proceedings, but when asked about the level of violence in his country, he made some interesting observations.

Retes agreed that violence arises where there is so much social inequality — where some can grow and others cannot.  The lack of constant justice, and the lack of trust in those to whom we are to report crimes, makes it possible for delinquents to not restrain themselves.

Retes noted that Mexico “does produce weapons,” but “the country north of us keeps them flowing.”  He pointed to some of the horrors the Mexican people face  such as drug trafficking, child prostitution, human trafficking, people are kidnapped, and organ trafficking where human organs are smuggled into US hospitals.

Those descriptions of hell-like conditions got people in the room squirming.

I would welcome women voting

Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich holds a position of regional power far beyond his leadership in Luxembourg.  He succeeds Cardinal Reinhard Marx who served as president of the Catholic Church in the European Union (COMECE).  His term will last until 2023 (he could serve a second term) where he will influence EU policy on issues close to the heart of Catholicism including the treatment of immigrants, the rise of right wing populism and the xenophobia that drives it, etc.   He hopes to strengthen the Dialogue between the EU institutions and the Catholic Church on the basis of Article 17 TFEU.

His general comments about the synod proceedings included personal anecdotes from his own experience.  He said that some young people live in his house with him, and that they live very differently than he.  He listens to them and learns from them.

“They never read a book, but they can quote from movies and Netflix”

Hollenrich believes that has implications for the proclamation of the Gospel.

Hollenrich also cautioned about the dangers of populism in Europe where migrants are increasingly under attack.

After the press briefing, I had a chance to ask the archbishop about how women were faring at the synod, women’s roles in the church, and how he felt about the fact that non-ordained male religious superiors could vote, but women could not, especially in light of Episcopalis communio where the pope seems to want more synodality.

The archbishop responded with a smile saying that “he would welcome anything that could bring women into the vote.”  He referenced the middle ages where abbesses had a lot of authority.

Hollenrich also said, “he feels truly sad when women see that their baptism does not afford them the same opportunities” as their male counterparts.

When asked if he thinks Francis is moving toward opening the synod to more non-ordained voters, including women, Hollenrich replied that he wants women to vote at the synod, but he is not sure Francis is moving that direction.

“I hope so,” the archbishop chimed.

Filling in the gaps slowly on who’s who in the small language groups

This is what I know so far on who is in each language group.

  • English Group A:  Cardinal Oswald Gracias
    • Secretary: Irish Archbishop Eamon Martin.
    • British Cardinal Vincent Nichols
    • Australian Archbishop Anthony Fisher
    • USA Bishop Frank Caggiano
  • English Group B:  Cardinal Blase Cupich
    • Secretary:  Australian Auxiliary Bishop Mark Edwards
    • Australian Archbishop Peter Comensoli
    • USA Archbishop Charles Chaput
  • English Group C:  Cardinal Joseph Coutts
    • Secretary:  Archbishop Thomas Dowd
    • Brother Alois of Taize
  • English Group D:  Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo
    • Secretary: USA Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron
    • South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier
    • Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna
    • Philippines Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle
    • Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez
  • French Group A:  Archbishop David Macaire, OP
    • Secretary:  Archbishop Laurent Percerou
  • French Group B: Archbishop Bertrand Lacoombe
    • Secretary:  Archbishop Gaspard Beby Gneba
  • French Group C:  Cardinal Dieudonne NZapalainga, C.S.Sp.
    • Secretary:  Rev. Bruno P. Cadore, O.P.
  • Italian Group A:  Cardinal Angelo De Donatis
    • Secretary:  Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia
  • Italian Group B:  Cardinal Fernando Filoni
    • Secretary:  Archbishop Bruno Forte
  • Italian Group C:  Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi
    • Secretary:  Archbishop Pietro Maria Fragnelli
  • Spanish Group A:  Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodrigues Maradiaga
    • Secretary:  Cardinal Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan, O.A.R.
  • Spanish Group B:  Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer
    • Secretary:  Archbishop Mariano Jose Parra Sandoval
  • German Group:  Archbishop Felix Genn
    • Secretary:  Archbishop Stefan Oster, S.D.B.
  • Portuguese Group:  Cardinal Joao Braz De Aviz
    • Secretary:  Archbishop Joaquim Augusto Da Silva Mendes, S.D.B.

Deborah Rose-Milavec

Reporting from Rome