Bishop Mark at the Synod of Bishops

Between 3rd-18th October 2018 the Holy Father has called a meeting in Rome of the Synod of Bishops to discuss the theme “Young people, faith and vocational discernment”. These Synods are held at regular intervals to discuss importance pastoral issues for the Church and are made up of bishops representing every continent and country around the world, as well as priests and laypeople who are experts in the subject being discussed. This year, because of the theme, the voices of young people will also be heard at the Synod.

These Synods (the word comes from Greek and means “gathering”) are an expression of the universal nature of the Catholic Church, as you can see from this picture of the Bishops leaving the Synod Hall.
Representing England and Wales are our own Bishop, Bishop Mark, and Bishop Ralph Hesketh CSsR, the Bishop of Hallam.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, is also there.  He is a member of one of the Synod’s permanent bodies in Rome and so takes part automatically in the meetings.
The Cardinals, who are those Bishops chosen by the Pope to be his closest advisers and whose most important role is to elect the next pope,  can be distinguished from the rest of the Bishops by the bright red they wear, including the red “zucchetto”, or small head covering, here being worn by Cardinal Vincent and a fellow Cardinal.
As always the Swiss Guard are on duty to ensure the safety of the meeting.  Don’t be fooled by their brightly coloured uniform, designed by Michelangelo.  The Swiss Guard is a highly-trained and professional group of body guards, chosen from young men from the Catholic cantons of Switzerland. As is customary, the Swiss Guard give a salute when a Cardinal or Bishop pass by them as a sign of respect.
The meetings of the Bishops are held in the specially designed Synod Hall in Vatican City, to one side of St Peter’s Basilica, which you can just glimpse of the right of this picture.
Each day the Bishops come to the Vatican City and gather in the Synod Hall to hear delegates speak and then they break up into small language groups to discuss issues in more detail, including a couple of Latin-speaking groups, mainly for those participants who don’t speak one of the major European languages!

Bishop Mark manages to arrive in good spirits and unruffled, despite the usual white-knuckle ride through the Roman traffic…
…and takes his place amongst the delegates in the Synod Hall.
Although there will be time for relaxation and to form bonds of friendship with each other, the Bishops are there primarily to work, as can be seen by the blue work bags they all carry, containing the papers and notes they need for each day.
Every delegate has the right to speak for a short period over the month, and it can be no easy task to sit and absorb such a huge amount of information.  However, as you can see, our Bishops at least can end the day with a smile!
The aim of the Synod is to provide the Holy Father with the wisdom of the Bishops from around the world on a particular subject, which he then normally uses to write a document called an “Apostolic Exhortation”, based on what the Bishops have submitted to him.

So the Synod of Bishops is one of the important ways in which the Bishops from across the world can share in the universal ministry of the Pope, the Successor of St Peter.

Pope Francis, who is also the Bishop of Rome of course, is present in the Synod Hall daily to hear the Bishops speak. Here we see our Bishop being greeted by the Pope and sharing some light-hearted conversation together with Archbishop Vincent and Bishop Ralph.
Always on the watch, even when saluting, the Swiss Guard, whose primarily role is to protect the Pope, keep a beady-eye on the Bishop Mark as he meets the Holy Father!
The end of another day for Cardinal Vincent, Bishop Mark and Bishop Ralph…so time for some well-earned pasta, vino and riposo!