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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis introduced four modifications to the Synod on Synodality, including voting rights for men and women among religious and laity.
Today the Vatican announced the four modifications to the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which Pope Francis has dubbed the Synod on Synodality.
Those four modifications are:
As members, all of these new participants will have voting rights.
The five women religious, who now have voting rights, join Sr. Nathalie Becquart, whom the pope appointed in 2021 as the Synod of Bishop's undersecretary. This appointment made Becquart the first woman to have the right to vote in the Synod of Bishops.
Church Militant's Rome correspondent Jules Gomes, Ph.D., commented on the new modifications.
"After repeatedly raising the issue of clericalism, Pope Francis is most definitely seeking to de-clericalize the hierarchy of the Church," he explained.
"In light of early Christianity, the pontiff is attempting to recover a Pauline vision of the Church where every member has a ministry and these ministries need not be confined to the local church," he added.
Gomes recalled the involvement of lay people in choosing bishops in the early Church.
"His inclusion of women at every level possible is intentional," he noted about the pope. "The danger is that of lay or non-ordained persons appointed to high office themselves getting addicted to power and clericalism."
Gomes further posited that, for the new structures to be more credible, the pope must demonstrate to the universal Church how those structures are rooted in Scripture and Tradition.
"But, more importantly," Gomes noted, "he needs to reverse his recent moves that have centralized more power to the Roman pontiff by snatching some power from the bishops."
He concluded by highlighting a change of course from a recent Vatican decision to the pope's latest modifications.
"Ironically, when a German diocese asked for permission to include lay persons in the cathedral chapter to elect the bishop (in the light of an accepted concordat), the Vatican refused to let them do it," observed Gomes.
The Vatican's announcement offered justifications for the unprecedented modifications. "This decision reinforces the solidity of the process as a whole, 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," reads the document.
As a basis for its reasoning, the document mentions the "relationship between common priesthood and ministerial priesthood," expressed at the Second Vatican Council. The statement further argues the changes do not alter the nature of synodal assembly but rather confirm it.
"This is shown first of all by the numerical ratio between bishops and non-bishops, the latter being less than 25% of the total number of Assembly members," explains the document.
But above all this is shown by the way in which the non-bishops are appointed. ... [T]hey are not elected by some demos or coetus, whose representation they would take on, but are appointed by the Holy Father on the proposal of the bodies through which episcopal collegiality is realized at the level of continental areas, rooting their presence in the exercise of pastoral discernment.
Reactions on social media to the Vatican's announcement were mixed, but mostly negative.
"That's great progress. Long overdue. Thanks to Pope Francis!" reads one response.
"Historic! the Pope plans to appoint 70 non-bishop members of the synod, with half of them being women, who will also have voting rights. … This is a significant effort," wrote Lawrence Taveras.
Historic! the Pope plans to appoint 70 non-bishop members of the synod, with half of them being women, who will also have voting rights. The goal is to include more young people and women in the synod's decision-making processes.— Lawrence R. Taveras (@LawrenceTavers) April 26, 2023
This is a significant effort.
"This farce is rigged, like most everything else in this corrupt pontificate," reads another response.
"Then why is it called the Synod of Bishops?" wrote Mario Cataldo. "What a joke. Our Church is becoming a secular democracy."
Another reaction concurred with Cataldo: "This is absurd. The Church is not a democracy. Welcome to Protestantism."
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