Video: Cardinal Tobin previews the final sessions of the Synod of Bishops

Speaking in front of the Synodal Hall in Vatican City, Cardinal Tobin provides a preview of the final days and sessions of the Synod of Bishops and the development of the Synthesis Report.

Once again, greetings from Rome, Vatican City, standing in front of the Synodal Hall.

The clock is ticking. We’re in our final three full days of work, and it is a lot of work. We’re looking today at a draft of the synthesis report that’s going to be published, we hope, shortly after the Synod itself. It really is a work in progress.

We’re looking at a document that does not pretend to be the final document of the Synod because that will happen at the end of the session in 2024. Rather, it first is an act of accountability to everyone who’s taken part in the Synod at different levels — at our level, in the diocese, as well as the national level in the United States, in the other countries in the world, and finally, the continental Synod that took place late last spring — to give an idea of what we talked about and how we are learning to walk together as a Church. So it’s not a final document, but it should say something substantial to all of you who participated in the process, and especially to all of you who are trying to decide whether to get involved or not.

I think an important part will happen tomorrow morning, Friday morning, when we talk about what sort of orientation do we want to give the Church over the next 11 months to prepare for the final session, the second and final session of this Synod of Bishops on Synodality.

Later on Saturday, we will work the whole day voting and approving the content of this synthesis report. At the end of the day, we’ll sing as best we can one of the ancient hymns of Thanksgiving in the Church, the “Te Deum.”   English speakers know it as a hymn that we end Sunday Mass often – “Holy God, we praise thy Name.” Those are actually the words of the “Te Deum,” that we’ll sing to give thanks to God for all that has happened in these last four weeks. And then on Sunday, we’ll gather with the Holy Father to celebrate a solemn mass of Thanksgiving.

Now I’ve been thinking a lot about these four weeks and what do they mean? And I thought of two images. One image is something that I saw almost 20 years ago, in April of 2005. You know that our Holy Father, now Saint John Paul II, died at the beginning of April, and a couple of days later, one of my classmates who was working here in Rome asked me to go with him to the wake in the middle of the night.

We got in line at Castel San Angelo, which is the ancient tomb of the Emperor Hadrian – it’s about a good 10-minute walk from Saint Peter’s. One o’clock in the morning we got in line. We entered the Basilica at a quarter to 10, so almost nine hours. We moved slowly, but we kept moving, and two things really stick in my memory thinking about that “walking together.” First, everybody was there at one o’clock in the morning, elbow to elbow, with people that looked like they were a motorcycle gang from one of the Balkans, soccer teams from Italy, boy scouts, girl scouts, young families, senior citizens leaning on each other’s arms, all walking together. And as we turned on to the Conciliazone (Road of the Conciliation), which is the big street that leads up to Saint Peter’s, where normally, you can’t miss the Basilica, you couldn’t see it because it was covered in fog. And we kept walking towards a destination that none of us could see, but we trusted each other as we walked along and we trusted God who was leading us. And I thought that what this, these four weeks felt like walking together, trusting each other, recognizing that Jesus and His Holy Spirit were leading us, even if we couldn’t see the destination. And that everybody was here.

The other image that I saw just yesterday was a beautiful rainbow, but arched across the dome of Saint Peter’s. And you know, in scripture, the rainbow is a sign of peace, but it’s also a sign of fidelity that God keeps His word.

And so I have great confidence coming back to Newark that we’re going to find a way forward to continue listening to each other and asking each other, “What is the Spirit saying to us as the diocesan church today?” I can have confidence because God is faithful and God will be with us. See you soon. I’m looking forward to it.