For the first time in the history of the synod, Pope Francis has given women the right to vote and has also made a radical change to the membership of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality.
At the synod, which opens in October, between 21 and 25 percent of the members with a right to vote will not be bishops. These members will include consecrated women and men as well as lay women and men. All those who are members of the synod will have a right to vote.
Ever since the Second Vatican Council, popes have summoned the world’s bishops to Rome for a few weeks at a time to debate particular topics. At the end of the meetings, the bishops vote on specific proposals and put them to the pope, who then produces a document taking their views into account.
Until now, the only people who could vote were men.
The news was broken at a press briefing on April 26 by Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of the synod, and Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the relator general of the synod.
Explaining the change in synod membership, Cardinal Hollerich explained that while in the past, 10 clerics belonging to Institutes of Consecrated Life and elected by the respective organizations representing the superiors general could participate in the synod, this is no longer the case. Instead of 10 clerics, these groups will now be represented by “five women religious and five men religious,” and “as members of the synod, they will have the right to vote.”