VATICAN CITY — Outside the closed doors of Paul VI Hall, indications are that Synod on Synodality participants are divided on a host of issues, from what pastoral care for same-sex-attracted people should look like to whether the synod’s methodology for discerning God’s will is even sufficiently grounded in Catholic teaching.
But there seems to be something that all 365 voting members can find some common ground on: They’re all tired.
In fact, a general sense of fatigue is usually the first topic brought up during any exchange with a participant in the Synod on Synodality assembly, which is nearing completion of its third week in Rome.
One participant shared that the frequent periods for silent prayer that intersperse the synod’s proceeding are now appreciated as much as opportunities to simply close one’s eyes and let their minds rest for a bit. Another member, commenting on a recent scheduling change that gives participants the afternoons of this coming Monday and Tuesday off, said that synod participants were grateful for any opportunity to rest they could come by at this point.
The reality was even acknowledged by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the synod’s relator general, in remarks he gave to the whole assembly this past Wednesday.
“I think we all agree when I say that we are tired,” said the Luxembourgish cardinal, at the start of the assembly’s engagement on yet another “module,” this one focused on “participation, governance and authority.”
The reason why synod participants are so tired is apparent. At a synod that has touted itself as more expansive and more participatory than ever before, the days are necessarily, long, full and intense.
Unlike past universal synods in Rome, which have focused on a specific topic such as “New Evangelization” or “The Family,” participants at this year’s gathering are being asked to “reimagine” the Church in a synodal key. The ambition of the project is reflected in the instrumentum laboris of this month’s synodal assembly. Instead of a “first draft” for synod participants use as the basis for further discussions, the Synod on Synodality’sto working document includes 100-plus questions for discernment on everything ranging from how the Church can better accompany migrants to whether episcopal conferences should be given more doctrinal authority.