The categories of people at the Synod

Today was a day off for most of the members of the Synod, as the drafting commission was working hard to prepare the initial draft of the final document for our eventual consideration. My day included mass, another interview with a couple of journalists, and a very pleasant lunch meeting with the young "auditors" from our small group, along with our "expert":

The youth of my small group


In case you were wondering what an "auditor" or "expert" was, these are elements of Synod-speak for certain classes of people who are involved in the Synod. It breaks down this way:

  • The General Secretariat: this is a group of people who are assisting the Pope in leading the Synod. They provide the administrative support in the background to keep the process moving forward.
  • The Synod Fathers: these are the bishops (and some priests, and a couple of religious brothers) who are actual members of the Synod and who have the right to vote and make written proposals. I am in this category.
  • The Auditors: these people are not members of the Synod per se but who attend all the meetings of the general assembly and the small groups. They each have a chance to make a presentation in the general assembly and participate actively in the small group meetings. In the case of our Synod, most of them are young people or represent areas of youth ministry in their home countries (in some cases, they are both). Some religious sisters are also in this category.
  • The Fraternal delegates: these are members of non-Catholic churches and ecclesial communities that are invited to participate much as auditors do. In my small group, we had an Anglican bishop from Kenya join us.
  • The Experts: these are people who assist the Synod with their particular area of expertise. They are often academics, but are not limited to that category. 

While these different categories exist, my experience of the Synod has been that the various distinctions do not mean divisions. Good grief, the Pope himself joins us for the coffee break, chatting with all and everyone sooner or later. These categories are important, as having people know their particular roles helps set the ground rules for the smooth functioning of the entire synodal process. But more important is the genuine listening to each other that occurs, because no institutional subdivision of people can claim to possess the Holy Spirit better than others.