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Zac DavisOctober 04, 2023
The view of St. Peter’s Square during the opening Mass of the Synod on Synodality from the Vatican press box (Photo by author)

We’re off. Today, Pope Francis opened the Synod on Synodality with a Mass in St. Peter’s Square with the synod delegates and new cardinals that he created over the weekend.

I have been to papal events before, but this was my first time attending as an accredited journalist. This had me feeling a little bit of imposter syndrome but mostly excitement for a number of reasons, one of which is that I would be taking in the Mass from the Vatican press box.

For events in St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican press corps typically climbs a windy staircase more than 40 feet up to observe from the top of the southern colonnades. It provides a stunning birdseye perspective, where you can take in Bernini’s handiwork as well as the crowd and ambiance.

The word “synod” is not a familiar word for many of us. And therefore trying to understand what a Synod on Synodality is has felt like a tautological puzzle for a lot of Catholic observers.

I have spent the better part of the past two years trying to understand what synodality is. Today, it finally started to click.

From my vantage point, I was struck by the procession at the beginning of Mass. Here was the church: The synod delegates, with the lay people leading the way, walked in a long line through the square toward the altar. Walking together.

It is one thing to be told that the meaning of synod is to walk together. It was another thing to actually see it, and to see it with a perspective that I’ve never had before. Perhaps if I were somewhere else, my eyes would have fluttered from person to person as they walked by, without giving a thought to the wider group. So today, I am grateful for the broad, long view.

“Let us walk together: humble, fervent and joyful,” Pope Francis said during his homily. And while we’re walking together, let’s not forget to take the broader view from time to time.

°°°

It’s a busy time here in Rome, and there’s a lot worthy of your attention. I’ll point to a couple of them here:

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