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Pope Opens Vatican Summit on Future of Catholicism

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The Vatican has initiated a highly awaited summit focused on renewing the Catholic Church—a monthlong event in which both bishops and laypeople are likely to be urged to resist the allure of strict doctrinal inflexibility and instead adopt a vision of Catholicism that is inclusive and hospitable to everyone.  

Pope Francis opened the summit, known as the Synod on Synodality, on October 4 in Rome, continuing a three-year process of dialogue and reflection that began in 2021 to tackle a range of issues from priestly celibacy and the inclusion of LGBTQ to the ordination of women in the church.

In a homily delivered in St. Peter’s Square to inaugurate the synod, the pope articulated the importance of not succumbing to what he described as “some dangerous temptations: of being a rigid Church … which arms itself against the world and looks backward; of being a lukewarm church, which surrenders to the fashions of the world; of being a tired church, turned in on itself.”

 About 450 delegates from various parts of the globe gathered for the event, which is scheduled to conclude on October 29. Leading up to the historic occasion, congregations worldwide organized small group discussions to address significant issues confronting the Catholic Church. These range from the declining number of men pursuing priesthood to enhancing the church’s inclusivity towards divorced and remarried Catholics.

In April 2023, as part of his ongoing initiatives to promote greater inclusivity in Catholic Church leadership, Francis endorsed alterations to the rules governing the synod, underscoring his vision for increased inclusivity, including the historic introduction of women’s voting rights at the October synod.   

“And if God’s holy people with their shepherds from all over the world have expectations, hopes and even some fears about the Synod we are beginning, let us continue to remember that it is not a political gathering, but a convocation in the Spirit; not a polarized parliament, but a place of grace and communion,” the pope said.  

The Synod on Synodality is an extensive process set to extend until next October, when participants will reconvene at the Vatican for additional discussions and deliberations. Anticipated from the 2024 assembly is some form of communication or statement.

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