Meet the Youngest ‘Synod Father’

Davide Paloni, four months old, has been a visible presence since day one of the international gathering.

Davide Paloni, the 'synod baby,' attends a working-group session at the synod on the family this month.
Davide Paloni, the 'synod baby,' attends a working-group session at the synod on the family this month. (photo: L'Osservatore Romano via CNA)

Four-month-old Davide Paloni has captured the hearts of synod attendees and many following the Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. He is the youngest “participant” of this world meeting of bishops and has been present from day one, lovingly attended to by his parents, Massimo and Patrizia.

His parents, originally from Rome, moved to Maastricht, Holland, as a missionary family of the Neocatechumenal Way. They have 12 children — six boys and six girls — of whom Davide is the youngest. Founded in 1964 in Spain by Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández, the Neocatechumenal Way is a lay movement whose members Pope Francis has received on different occasions in the Vatican.

In this interview with the Register, Massimo Paloni spoke about Davide’s warm welcome, the Holy Father’s moments with his son and how his son’s presence is promoting the beauty of family life during the synod.

Though Patrizia couldn’t speak to the Register because she was attending to the smallest “synod father,” her husband spoke on her behalf about what this has meant to her, too.

Massimo’s eyes lit up as he spoke about how delighted Pope Francis was to meet Davide, with a big smile on his face and saying, “But I had not seen this little one on the list of synod fathers.” Massimo explained that, afterward, Francis gave a blessing, a little caress, and both he and little Davide were very content.

“You could see how happy he was in his face. We showed the Holy Father the picture of our 12 children, and his smile grew even greater, and the Holy Father was just so welcoming — really.”

“We are so happy. This little boy is doing a great service to the family because he makes present life, the beauty of life. Without speaking, he speaks more than everyone, because he presents to the world, and does so without words, that there is nothing more beautiful than to give life to a child,” his father said.

When asked about his wife and her reaction to all the attention the family is receiving, he replied, “Patrizia is so happy, as I was saying. There has been such a warm welcome, and they have been helping us in everything — and everywhere. We are so grateful; we are being placed in the best conditions for participating as much as possible.”

On what the synod means to them personally, he noted, “We are very grateful to the Holy Father for having invited us to the synod, because this gives us the possibility to render glory to God for the immense works he has done in our lives. So I thank, first of all, Pope Francis, who has given us the chance to be here. It has been such an honor.”

The proud dad also expressed his desire that the family’s presence aids the rediscovery of the beauty of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, which, released in 1968, reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s teaching on the regulation of birth, emphasizing openness to life.

While explaining how the missionary family is dedicated to evangelizing, which led him to leave a management position at Hewlett-Packard, Massimo explained, “We are very normal people, but it is God who did all this in us.”

He added that the synod experience has been touching.

“I don’t know how many blessings he has been given,” he said of his youngest child.

“I was joking with my wife that at least one of our little ones has to become a bishop, with all these different blessings,” he said, jokingly adding, “At the minimum … at least a bishop.”

A fundamental point, according to Massimo, is teaching the faith to their children. He noted how the synod is rightfully reflecting on this. “Just as our parents passed the faith down to us, we pass it on to ours.”

He pointed out how important it is to speak to children about their faith and how it is to be considered in everyday things. “Sometimes, one has to ask: ‘Have you reconciled with your brother? You have to ask forgiveness.’ ... Also, we ask for forgiveness for when maybe we have had stressful moments. Maybe we were stressed that week. ... This is a great gift.”

He stressed how important it is that the faith passed from the parents grows because today’s challenges amid current culture are enormous. To respond to these challenges, there is the need for an adult faith, he stated, which starts from a foundation during youth.

When he received missionary families last March 6, Pope Francis said: “You have received the strength to leave everything and depart for a distant land thanks to a way of Christian initiation,” adding that the lay movement is “a true gift of Providence to the Church of our times.” For this encouragement, Massimo says he is grateful.

On how little Davide is handling the long days in the synod hall, Massimo said, “Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic.”

“The other day, the synod fathers were speaking, and he fell asleep; but out of correctness, we won’t say the name of the [synod] father who was speaking.”

About how Patrizia is enjoying the synod, he noted, “She is so happy and says how much she wants to speak about this beauty of the woman, as being a mother is the highest point of human dignity — for what more is there, than to give life to someone? She said the other day to a cardinal, ‘Today, I feel really fully me, as woman, mother and spouse.’ This is beautiful.”

Based on his observations, the synod fathers have a great understanding of family issues and values. He also rejected reports by the media suggesting that the Holy Father, months ago, was critical toward very large families, saying, “We are so grateful to Pope Francis for having invited us here, us — parents of 12 children.”

Deborah Lubov is a Vatican correspondent, accredited to the Holy See and

based in the Vatican, who reports primarily for Zenit News Agency.