The Vatican

What was discussed at the Consistory of Cardinals

The concept of synodality and the role of the laity in the Church were the two topics at the center of the Consistory of Cardinals held on August 29-30 in Rome.

Stefano Grossi Gondi-August 31, 2022-Reading time: 4 minutes

Photo: Pope Francis meets with cardinals at the Vatican on August 29, 2022. ©CNS/Vatican Media

Translation of the article into Italian

The Church gathered in Rome with the Pope to reflect on the future during four intense days. Prior to the consistory, on Saturday, August 27, the official appointment of 20 new cardinals from around the world took place, and then, on the 29th and 30th, some 200 cardinals met behind closed doors to discuss aspects of the "Praedicate Evangelium"The College of Cardinals is made up of 227 people, a large majority of whom are very representative of the ecclesial community. The entire College of Cardinals is made up of 227 people, so that on this occasion a large majority, very representative of the ecclesial community, participated.

Opening homily

In his opening homily, Pope Francis exhorted those present about the fire that Jesus came to "cast on the earth," a fire that the Holy Spirit also kindles in the hearts, hands and feet of those who follow him. A fire that can be powerful or be an ember, in which a particular style of God is manifested, when it is communicated with gentleness, with fidelity, with closeness and tenderness. 

"The double way of expressing fire reminds us," Francis said, "that the man of apostolic zeal is animated by the fire of the Spirit to deal courageously with things great and small."

With these introductory words, the Pope encouraged the participants in the Consistory to approach the topics under discussion with a courageous spirit. 

What is synodality?

Two themes emerged most forcefully at the central meeting: understanding what is synodality and to clarify the circumstances in which lay people can lead a dicastery. On the first question, some eminences observed that synodality is a serious matter, suggesting, above all, that "the bishops make the synod."

Other prelates expressed various perplexities about the misuse of the term "synodality," which would now be used to indicate everything, including things that would have more to do with communion than with synodality as it has always been understood.

The role of the laity

The other issue dealt with concerned the laity. It is known that the new constitution calls for a greater participation of the laity in the structures of the vertex, although without going into the question in depth. In more than one working group it was proposed to enumerate the dicasteries that can have a lay person at the head, without leaving everything in a generic vagueness. 

On the basis of the first day of the consistory, some cardinals raised the idea of defining the source of jurisdiction at the doctrinal level: is it the sacrament of orders or is it the supreme power of the Pope? These are not exactly accidental disquisitions, so clarifications will be useful in the near future.  

In the discussions, there is an emerging focus on making the role in the Christian community "more missionary" and opening the door to a greater presence of lay people and women, including through more frequent meetings and discussions.  

Second day of the consistory

The second day of meetings confirmed the centrality of the theme of the laity, which is evidently understood as relevant to the evolution of the Church. Again taking the "Praedicate Evangelium" as a reference, the cardinals present discussed in linguistic groups, where proposals were made, and then met in plenary session. 

The most frequently heard topic was that of the laity, taking as a reference what was stated in ".Praedicate Evangelium"Every Christian, by virtue of Baptism, is a disciple-missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus". This cannot be overlooked in the updating of the Curia, whose reform, therefore, must provide for the participation of the laity, also in functions of governance and responsibility. 

He then reaffirmed the idea that "there are dicasteries in which it is convenient to have lay people at the head". The affirmation of the laity and their role is linked by some to the development of the missionary spirit, thinking that "sooner or later we will arrive at a different consciousness, where everything is missionary and missionary even, it may seem paradoxical, the Curia offices themselves" (Cardinal Paolo Lojudice).


The Cardinal Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, concluded his participation by speaking of an "extraordinarily edifying" meeting. "We spoke as friends, as brothers, with immense charity and deep love for the Church, about very practical matters," the cardinal said. "I'm glad it happened. It was eagerly awaited."

Pope Francis concluded the consistory with a Holy Mass. In his homily he seemed to refer to some of the issues mentioned here for the future of the Church. "If, together with the disciples, we respond to the Lord's call and go to Galilee, to the mountain indicated by Him, we experience a new amazement. This time, what enchants us is not the plan of salvation itself, but the fact - even more surprising - that God involves us in his plan: it is the reality of the mission of the apostles with the risen Christ... The words of the Risen One still have the power to move our hearts two thousand years later. The unfathomable divine decision to evangelize the world starting from that miserable group of disciples, who, as the Evangelist points out, were still in doubt, never ceases to amaze us. But, if we look at it closely, the astonishment is no different if we look at ourselves, gathered here today, to whom the Lord has repeated those same words, that same sending".

The authorStefano Grossi Gondi

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