Pope Francis and his eight cardinal advisers on church governance spent much of their first day together discussing reform of the Synod of Bishops, but the Vatican downplayed expectations that their discussions would lead to major changes in the near future.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters Oct. 2 that the pope and the international Council of Cardinals had held morning and afternoon sessions the previous day, for the first of three days of initial meetings.
Their morning session took place from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in a private library in the Apostolic Palace. Pope Francis opened the meeting with a talk on the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council, in order to establish a “working climate not limited to organizational questions but broadly spiritual and ecclesiological,” Father Lombardi said.
Among the topics of the pope’s reflection were the mission of the church, the relationship between the universal church and local churches, collegiality, the church and poverty, and the role of the laity.
Each of the cardinals then offered a summary of the suggestions he had collected in preparation for the meeting, and offered his views on what should be the major areas of the council’s work.
The afternoon session, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., was held in the Vatican guesthouse, where the pope lives and where all the cardinals have been staying during the council meetings. The sessions on Oct. 2-3 also were scheduled for the guesthouse, Father Lombardi said.
Most of the Oct. 1 afternoon session was devoted to reform of the Synod of Bishops, which organizes periodic meetings of bishops from around the world to advise the pope on specific subjects. Pope Francis, who replaced the synod’s secretary-general Sept. 21, has suggested that he wants to make it into a permanent advisory body.