Cardinal Hollerich: The Openness of the Synod on Synodality ‘Will Change the Church’

While sometimes people had their ‘knives out’ over an issue during small-group discussions at the Oct. 4-29 assembly, eventually, an alternative solution would be discovered, the synod's general relator said.

Pope Francis leads prayer at the Synod on Synodality Oct. 28 at the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican.
Pope Francis leads prayer at the Synod on Synodality Oct. 28 at the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. (photo: National Catholic Register / Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY — At the conclusion of the Synod on Synodality, Pope Francis’ monthlong Vatican assembly, one of the meeting’s leaders said the freedom and openness experienced during the gathering will help the Church change in the future.

While sometimes people had their “knives out” over an issue during small group discussions at the Oct. 4-29 assembly, eventually, an alternative solution would be discovered, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the synod’s relator general, said at a press briefing Oct. 28.

“To have this freedom and openness will change the Church,” he said, “and I’m sure the Church will find answers, but perhaps not the exact answer this group or that group wants to have, but answers [with which] most people could feel well and listened to.”

The Vatican gathering this month was the first of two sessions of the 16th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The synod delegates, which included laypeople for the first time, voted on and released a “synthesis” report to conclude the gathering. A more definitive document is expected to be released at the end of the second session of the synod in October 2024.

“The process starts, really starts, at the end of the [whole] synod,” Cardinal Hollerich told journalists Saturday evening. “So even next year, I hope there will be a document that is a real document, where also some theological questions of synodality get considered and so on.”

But even the final document, he stressed, will just be “a step” of “a Church on the move."

“And I think that’s the important thing: we move,” the cardinal added.

The archbishop of Luxembourg repeated that the synod “is about synodality … even if people have not believed us.”

He said there are topics that are important to some people and should continue to be important to them, even if they were not mentioned in the Oct. 28 synthesis report. “And I think a synodal Church will more easily try to speak about these topics than the Church as it was structured in the past,” he said.

“That’s not to say that a synodal church will just embrace everything,” he added.

About the fact that some people voted against some of the hot-button issues included in the assembly’s report, Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, said “there are points in which we agree and points in which there is still a way to go.”

Cardinal Hollerich said: “It was clear to me that some topics would have resistance. I am full of wonder that so many people have voted in favor. That means that the resistance [was] not so great as people have thought before. So yes, I am happy with that result.”

Similar results, in a parliamentary vote, would be considered very positive, he said.

The inclusion in the report of a paragraph about studying the possibility of women deacons had 69 votes against and 277 votes in favor.

Cardinal Grech said one bishop told him he saw “ice melt” in people during the gathering.

“‘This is the approach of Jesus, to create spaces for everyone so that no one feels excluded,” he added. “Today there was a tremendous joy that you could see with your own eyes.”

“I think,” Cardinal Hollerich said, “people will leave tomorrow or the day after tomorrow going home with a heart full of hope, with a lot of ideas, and I’m looking forward to seeing them back next year.”

Miniature from a 13th-century Passio Sancti Georgii (Verona).

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