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Pope and advisory council discuss synod reform on first day
Catholic News Service


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis and his eight cardinal advisers on church governance spent much of their first day together discussing reform of the Synod of Bishops, but the Vatican downplayed expectations that their discussions would lead to major changes in the near future.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters Oct. 2 that the pope and the international Council of Cardinals had held morning and afternoon sessions the previous day, for the first of three days of initial meetings.

Their morning session took place from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in a private library in the Apostolic Palace. Pope Francis opened the meeting with a talk on the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council, in order to establish a "working climate not limited to organizational questions but broadly spiritual and ecclesiological," Father Lombardi said.

Among the topics of the pope's reflection were the mission of the church, the relationship between the universal church and local churches, collegiality, the church and poverty, and the role of the laity.

Each of the cardinals then offered a summary of the suggestions he had collected in preparation for the meeting, and offered his views on what should be the major areas of the council's work.

The afternoon session, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., was held in the Vatican guesthouse, where the pope lives and where all the cardinals have been staying during the council meetings. The sessions on Oct. 2-3 also were scheduled for the guesthouse, Father Lombardi said.

Most of the Oct. 1 afternoon session was devoted to reform of the Synod of Bishops, which organizes periodic meetings of bishops from around the world to advise the pope on specific subjects. Pope Francis, who replaced the synod's secretary-general Sept. 21, has suggested that he wants to make it into a permanent advisory body.

The synod's new secretary-general, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, joined the pope and cardinals for their discussion, which touched on possible revisions to the body's statues.

Father Lombardi said that an announcement of the date and subject of the next synod would be forthcoming as soon as the week of Oct. 7, when the synod's council was scheduled to meet at the Vatican. He noted that Pope Francis has suggested that the next synod will have an "anthropological" theme relating to the pastoral care of families, which was also a topic of discussion at the council meeting.

The spokesman did not say whether the group discussed the specific question of the eligibility of divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion, which the pope has said will be on the council's agenda.

Last April, Pope Francis named eight cardinals to advise him on the governance of the universal church and reform of the Vatican bureaucracy; on Sept. 28, he gave the group permanent status and renamed it the Council of Cardinals.

The eight members, who represent six continents, are: Cardinals Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; Sean P. O'Malley of Boston; George Pell of Sydney; Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State; and Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.



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