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96th Assembly of Superior Generals (Rome)

A simple exercise in synodality

From 24-26 November, more than 110 Superior Generals, members of the Union of Superiors General, gathered at the Fraterna Domus house in Rome for their 96th General Assembly. It was almost two years since they were last together. The theme for their meeting was that of the forthcoming Synod: "Synod 2021-2023. For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission". 

The sharings on this theme took place in language groups (English, French, Italian and Spanish). Present for these days, were the President of the Union of Superiors General Jolanta Kafka and Pat Murray, the Secretary General, as well as representatives of the Congregation for Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and its Prefect, Cardinal Joao Braz de Avis. He hosted a time of open dialogue and listening with the superiors and presided at the final Eucharist. The new Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-Sik, also intervened in another session and encouraged religious life to demonstrate its expertise in communion with the diversity of sensitivities and outlooks that exist in the Church. 

A particularly rich moment were the interventions of the Archbishop of Brisbane (Australia), Mgr Mark Coleridge, and the Archbishop of Munich (Germany), Cardinal Reinhard Marx. Each shared what the synodal journey has meant for their respective churches in Australia and Germany. With great freedom and frankness they spoke of the challenges their churches have had to face, marked by a growing disaffection of the faithful, the impact of reports of abuse in their churches and the resistance among the pastors themselves. However, encouraged by the criterion that processes over time are more important than gaining space, they shared how this journey so far has helped them, in their vision as pastors, to be more attentive to the people, discovering the resources and potential that are to be found in many lay men and women, and the understanding that the Spirit of Jesus does not abandon his Church. "Christ surprises us, but does not disappoint us", said Mgr Coleridge.

A significant moment of prayer was the remembrance of all the religious who have died during these almost two years, many of them as a result of the pandemic.

The election of the Executive Council for the next three years (2021-2024) also took place. Arturo Sosa SJ, Superior General of the Jesuits, was re-elected as its president, and the monk Mauro Lepori, Abbot General of the Cistercians, as its vice-president. Alberto Toutin sscc, our Superior General sscc, was also elected as one of its members. This council, among other things, has the task of encouraging the contribution of religious life to the synodal process and strengthening the journeying together of the Union of Major Superiors and the Vatican Dicasteries.

The renewed Executive Council is composed of: Father Franco Bergamin (Canons Regular), Father Antony Puthenpurackal (Monks), Father Míceál O'Neill (Mendicants), Father Theodore Kalaw (Clerics Regular), Father Mathew Vattamattam (Clerical Congregations), Father John Larsen (Clerical Congregations), Father Budi Kleden (Clerical Congregations), Father Alberto Toutin (Clerical Congregations), Brother Mark Hilton (Religious Brothers), Father Emanuele Lupi (Society of Apostolic Life).

These days were a time of reunion, of freedom of speech and openness to listening to each other and to the Lord who walks in our midst. In short, it was a simple experience of synodality that we hope to be able to live out in our congregations and in the Church.