The work of the synod will last almost a month and will be held behind closed doors. The meeting was preceded by two years of various surveys of the flock: ordinary Catholics in different countries were asked to share their vision of the future of the church. Based on the results of these surveys, a working document was created, which included such items as the place of women in the church hierarchy, attitudes towards LGBT people, the consequences of celibacy (vow of celibacy) for clergy, the fight against pedophilia, abortion and others.
“It is our duty to steadfastly resist any attempts to change the teachings of the Church that may be made after this synodal meeting,” Pastor Gerald Murray, who also works as a host for the conservative Catholic television channel EWTN in the United States, said yesterday. He and dozens of other conservative priests gathered in Rome on Tuesday for a separate conference on the upcoming synod. They are concerned about what they consider to be the excessive liberalism of this event.
Among the 365 voting members of the synod, 54 women were invited to the meeting this time for the first time in history. About a hundred more observers and representatives of other Christian denominations also participate in it. Conservatives are strongly opposed to such a composition. They insist that any decisions on matters of Catholic doctrine must be made only by ordained ministers of the church.
On Monday, five conservative cardinals serving in Asia, Europe, Africa, the United States and Latin America sent five formal requests to Pope Francis, asking him to confirm his commitment to the traditional way of the church before the synod. One of them, Cardinal Raymond Burke, publicly explained that these requests should not be seen as a personal attack on the pope. According to him, this is an attempt by clergy to protect their flock from the “poison of confusion, error and schism.”
They were reportedly not satisfied with the pontiff's response. For example, according to one of the cardinals, in his response letter the pope hinted that he did not rule out the possibility of giving priests the right in some cases to bless same-sex couples. Speaking at a Conservative conference on Tuesday, Cardinal Burke called on his supporters to pray that "the gates of hell do not open upon the Holy Church."
The current synod will meet until October 28, and this will be only the first step in the process of reforming the Catholic Church, started by Pope Francis. In October 2024, the hierarchy will gather again in the Vatican for at least a few weeks. It is expected that the final document signed by the Pope will be made public no earlier than 2025.
Religious experts are confident that all this time there will be a serious struggle within the Catholic Church between progressives and conservatives, who will try with all their might to prevent changes related to church doctrine.