audience, in Paul VI Hall, to workers of the Bambino Gesu Hospital Photo: Vatican Media

Vatican Chronicles: Pope, Health and Changes. What Is Coming for the Church Before, During and After the October 2024 Synod

Week of March 11-17, 2024

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(ZENIT News / Rome, 20.03.2024).-  I still haven’t recovered,” said Pope Francis on Saturday, March 16, during an audience, in Paul VI Hall, to workers of the Bambino Gesu Hospital. That day marked the third week of an unwell Pope. It was in fact on Saturday, February 24, that the announcement was made that the Hoy Father was cancelling his audiences due to flu symptoms, although he had no fever. Since then, with the exception of his talks (very brief, of course) at Sundays Angelus, he has not pronounced the addresses in the audiences ha has attended.

Pope Francis began his 11th year of Pontificate, sick. Despite his health, however, he has kept a tight and demanding schedule for a man, let’s not forget, who is 87. Amid that tight schedule and poor health, we highlight something that would otherwise go unnoticed: the Pontiff wished to attend the Lenten preaching of Friday the 8th and the 15th of March, together with members of the Roman Curia. There are presences that reflect the hierarchy of things, and this is one of them.

Added to the Pope’s agenda and health are two other important events (and an additional one that borders on irrelevancy but that we report nevertheless: on one hand, a letter was made public of the Holy Father to Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the General Secretariat of the Synod. In the letter, the Pope acknowledges that in the Report of the first part of the October 2023 Synod on Synodality, there are “numerous and important theological questions (. . . ) related to the Church’s synodal renewal of which there is no lack of legal and pastoral repercussions.” Given that these questions call for in depth study, the Pope requests that “specific study groups be created” to examine the questions. He calls this “a fruit of the synodal process.”

As the second part of the Synod is being held in October of 2024, the Pope wants the “study groups to present a first Report on their work around that date and establishes June 2025 as the end of the mandate for those groups. These are the topics the groups will address:

1st Some aspects regarding relations between the Catholic Eastern Churches and the Latin Church;

2nd Listening to the cry of the poor;

3rd The mission in the digital realm;

4th The revision of the Ratio “Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis” in a synodal and missionary perspective;

5th Some theological and canonical questions around specific ministerial forms;

6th The revision, in a synodal and missionary perspective, of the documents on relations between Bishops, consecrated life and ecclesial aggregations;

7th Some aspects of the figure and ministry of the Bishop (particularly criteria of selection and ad Limina Visits) in a synodal and missionary perspective;

8th The synodal and missionary role of Pontifical Representatives;

9th Synodal theological and methodological criteria for a shared discernment on controversial doctrinal, pastoral and ethical questions;

10th Reception of the fruits of the ecumenical journey in ecclesial practice.

On the same day that the Pope’s letter to Cardinal Grech was published, the Synod’s Secretariat also published two documents: “How to be a synodal Church on mission? Five perspectives to reflect theologically further, in view of the second session of the Synod of Bishops’  16th Ordinary General Assembly” and Work Pointers. Study groups on topics that emerged in the First Session of the Synod of Bishops’ 16th  Ordinary General Assembly to deepen collaboration with the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia. “

Another important event is the number of the Pope’s appointments while he has been unwell. Highlighted, in addition to the many appointments, over three weeks, of new Bishops for different dioceses around the world, were the appointments of Nuncios and Members for entities of the Roman Curia or close to it: an average of one every three days (see list below).

Finally, less relevant although anecdotic was the announcement of a book on the life of Pope Francis. It is published by Harper Collins and the author is the Pope himself. We say not that relevant as it doesn’t contribute novelties. It includes things already treated in other numerous areas.  The book’s title is “Life, My Story Through History.” It has been in circulation since March 19, 2024, the 11th anniversary of the beginning Pope Francis’ Petrine Ministry.

* * *

The appointments mentioned above are:

  • Under-Secretary of the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life: Fr Aitor Jiménez  Echave, CMF, up to now official of the same Dicastery (29.02.2024)
  • Apostolic Nuncio in Papua New Guinea: Monsignor Mauro Lalli, Adviser of the Nunciature, who will be created Archbishop (01.03.2024)
  • Nuncio in South Korea and Mongolia: Monsignor Giovanni Gaspari, former Nuncio in Angola and Santo Tome and Principe (02.03.2024)
  • Substitute Promoter of Justice of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura: Fr Shane Lee Kirby, up to now official in the Dicastery for the Clergy (05.03.2024)
  • Secretary of the Dicastery for the Oriental Churches: Fr Michel Jalakh, O.A.M., who will be created Archbishop  (08.03.2024)
  • New Ordinary Members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences: Andrea Mia Ghez, Professor Astrophysics of the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of California in Los Angeles; Örjan Mikael Gustafsson, Professor of Environmental Sciences of the University of Stockholm; Demis Hassabis, Co-Founder and Delegate Adviser of Google DeepMind; Didier Patrick Queloz, Professor of Physics of Cambridge University; Rafael Radi Isola, Dean of the Department of Biochemistry of the University of the Republic of Montevideo; Batmanathan Dayanand Reddy, Professor Emeritus of Applied Mathematics of Cape Town University (08.03.2024)
  • Nuncio in Italy and San Marino: Monsignor Petar Rajic, up to now Nuncio in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (11.03.2024)
  • Assistant Under-Secretary of the Dicastery for the Clergy: Fr Enrico Massignani, up to now Chancellor of the Diocesan Curia of Vicenza in Italy (12.03.2024)
  • Assistant Under-Secretary for the Office of Information of the Dicastery for the Clergy: Fr Eamon McLaughlin, up to now official of the Dicastery for the Clergy (12.03.2024)
  • Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors: Monsignor Luis Manuel Alí Herrera, Auxiliary Bishop of Bogotá (15.03.2024)
  • Assistant Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for  the Protection of Minors: Mrs Teresa Morris Kettelkamp, up to now Member of the same Commission (15.03.2024)
  • Member of the Dicastery for Culture and Education: Cardinal Blase Joseph Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago (16.03.2024)
  • Consultor of the Dicastery for Culture and Education: Antonella  Sciarrone Alibrandi, Judge of the Constitutional Court of the Italian Republic (16.03.2024)

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Jorge Enrique Mújica

Licenciado en filosofía por el Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum, de Roma, y “veterano” colaborador de medios impresos y digitales sobre argumentos religiosos y de comunicación. En la cuenta de Twitter:, habla de Dios e internet y Church and media: evangelidigitalización."

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