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The morning prayer ritual of the synod fathers and mothers

Participants of the 16th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops gather in the Paul VI hall

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Anna Kurian - published on 10/12/23

The synod participants gathered at the Vatican throughout the month of October meet almost every morning around 8:45 for a quarter-hour of prayer together.

For the end of war “in the Holy Land and in Ukraine,” but also for the eradication of violence “in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon…” On Thursday morning, the 465 participants in the Synod on Synodality  opened their day’s work with a united voice for world peace.

Prayer time

The structure is sober and routine. A bishop or other prelate presides over this spiritual time. This morning, representing the Eastern Churches affected by conflict, Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, sits in the presider’s chair. He introduces the prayer with a few words. “People are waiting with great hope to live in dignity, in fraternity, and no longer in fear and worry,” he stresses, calling for “solidarity.”

Then, four Camaldolese brothers in white habits lead the assembly in a psalmody or a hymn. Sometimes a participant reads a biblical excerpt aloud. If a new module of the Synod is starting, either the Synod’s two spiritual assistants — the British Dominican priest Timothy Radcliffe and the Italian Benedictine nun Maria Ignazia Angelini — or another preacher will direct a relevant meditation.

Around their large round tables in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Synod members follow the prayer with the help of a booklet. The texts, often taken from the psalms, are read out in English, or Italian, or Arabic, or another official language. Many participants have their earphones on, following the simultaneous translation. 

Lay people and nuns take turns at the microphone with intercessions that express the intentions of the participants. The prayer concludes with a contemplative Taizé song, or a time of silent meditation — perhaps accompanied by a nun playing the zither — before the final blessing. 

Roll call

Every morning at the end of this spiritual time, Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod, invites members to confirm their presence by scanning their individual QR code on the tablet in front of them. This enables them to receive documents, information, and news from the assembly. Earlier in the week, some had excused themselves for health reasons, and others for an ad limina visit. In some cases, Pope Francis is present in person. 

Other spiritual events are planned. On Thursday, there will be a pilgrimage to the catacombs of the Christian martyrs of Rome. On Friday, the synod fathers and mothers will take part in a 9am mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

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