The laity also to vote at the Synod
The pope has approved the inclusion of lay people as full members and not just as auditors among non-bishops. The pontiff himself will pick 70 representatives of the people of God for the October meeting from lists provided by the Churches in all continents. The synod’s episcopal character will be guaranteed by the fact that bishops will constitute 75 per cent of the Assembly.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The General Secretariat of the Synod announced today that the voting members in the upcoming Synod on Synodality will include lay people in accordance with Pope Francis’s wishes.
Contrary to past practice, lay people will no longer be just auditors; instead, together with priests, deacons, men and women religious, they will participate as full members of the Synod and in greater numbers than in the past and will have the right to vote at the synodal assembly in October, the last stage of the synodal process Pope Francis launched two years ago.
Whether chosen by episcopal conferences or by Pope Francis, bishops will still constitute at least 75 per cent of the assembly, thus safeguarding "the specific episcopal nature of the Synodal Assembly".
The most important change thus concerns the presence as full members of 70 non-bishops representing the entire people of God (priests, consecrated men and women, deacons, laity) from local Churches.
The group of people who once participated as auditors will be replaced by a larger group of full members; hitherto, auditors were directly chosen by the pope to take part in the work of the synods but without the right to vote. Now, the group of 70 will be full members of the assembly.
They will always be chosen by the pope, but starting from a list of 140 people identified (and not selected) by the seven International Meetings of Episcopal Conferences and the Assembly of Patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches. For Asia, the FABC will present to the pontiff a list of 20 names.
Half of them must be women and the presence of young people will also be stressed. In choosing them, “not only their general culture and prudence will be taken into account, but also their knowledge, both theoretical and practical, as well as their participation in various capacities in the synodal process.”
Other, non-bishop members could be added to these "representatives of the people of God”, appointed directly by the pontiff.
Two other changes concern representatives of male and female religious congregations and the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.
The first will include five women religious and five men religious from institutes of consecrated life, picked by the respective organisations to represent the Superiors General who will also be full members of the Synod. As for the representatives of the dicasteries, those indicated by the pope will participate.
All non-bishops will join the bishops chosen by each episcopal conference, varying numerically according to the number of bishops and dioceses.
Pope Francis’s decision to grant non-bishops the right to vote reflects the pontiff’s views about involving the entire people of God in the synodal path. Nevertheless, the Vatican press release notes that the episcopal nature of the Synod will not be changed since non-bishops will be under 25 per cent of the whole assembly.
“This decision bolsters the solidity of the process as a whole,” said the General Secretariat of the Synod, “by incorporating into the Assembly the living memory of the preparatory phase, through the presence of some of those who were its protagonists, thus restoring the image of a Church-People of God, founded on the constitutive relationship between the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood, and giving visibility to the relationship of circularity between the prophecy function of the People of God and that of discernment of pastors.”