For the first time in the history of the Synod, Pope Francis has given women voting rights as well as changing the membership of the Synod of Bishops on the theme For A Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission. At a press briefing on 26 April, Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod, and Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, Relator General, explained the changes. The first modification says, “the ten clerics belonging to Institutes of Consecrated Life, elected by the respective organisations representing the Superiors General, are no longer present. They have been replaced by five women religious and five men religious belonging to Institutes of Consecrated Life, elected by the respective organisations representing the Superiors General. As members they have the right to vote.”
Cardinal Hollerich also noted that there would no longer be auditors at the Synod. Instead, “an additional 70 non-bishop members have been added who represent various groupings of the faithful of the People of God (priests, consecrated women, deacons, lay faithful) and who come from the local Churches. They will be chosen by the Pope from among a list of 140 people selected (and not elected) by the seven International Reunions of Bishop’s Conferences and the Assembly of Patriarchs of Eastern Catholic Churches (20 for each of these ecclesial realities).” All 70 will have a right to vote. Cardinal Hollerich went on to say that the Holy Father has requested that 50% of these representatives be women and that an emphasis should also be placed on the presence of young people. In addition to the 70 non-bishop members, it will also be possible to have non-bishop members among the pontifically appointed members of the Synod.
When asked if he knew when the names of the participants would be made public, Cardinal Mario Grech said it would happen as soon as possible, once the bishops’ conferences sent names to the Secretariat and the Holy Father gave his approval. The Cardinal believes that the total membership of the forthcoming Synod would then be approximately 370. He stressed that with the changes, some 21% of the gathered representatives at the October meeting will be non-bishops.
(texts taken from the Associated Press. Image taken at the pre-synodal assembly in Athlone in June 2022 with Mr Mark Mc Connellogue, Dr Nicola Brady, Archbishop Eamon Martin and Julieann Moran)