The topic of the next synod has been announced as “Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment”, according to a Vatican statement released today.
But according to one respected Vatican journalist, the synod – a meeting of bishops which will take place in 2018 – was nearly dedicated to a different theme: priestly celibacy.
Edward Pentin, Vatican correspondent of the National Catholic Register, reported that Pope Francis was “known to be keen” for the next synod to examine “priestly celibacy and a possible push to allow married priests”.
However, Pentin wrote, “That proposal was understood to have been voted down by the majority of members on the XIV Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops.”
The XIV Ordinary Council is a group of bishops which works with the Pope on choosing the theme of the synod. It includes Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, Cardinal George Pell, head of Vatican finance reform, and several other well-known prelates.
In choosing the theme, Pope Francis also consulted bishops’ conferences, the Eastern Catholic Churches, and the heads of women’s religious orders.
There had been speculation that the synod would address priestly celibacy. Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo and a friend of Pope Francis, is known to be interested in reforming the requirement for priests to be celibate, and recently had an audience with the Pope.
The Vatican statement said the choice of synod theme is expressive of “pastoral concern of the Church for the young”, and was “continuous” with the previous Synod on the Family and the Pope’s subsequent document Amoris Laetitia.
The next synod’s goal, said the Vatican, was “to accompany young people on their way of life towards maturity so that, through a process of discernment, they can discover their life project and realise it with joy, opening the encounter with God and with men, and actively participating in building up the Church and society.”