Today the Synod of Bishops will convene for the first session of their fifteenth ordinary general assembly on “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment”, which will run until the 28th of October. In the past, the daily deliberations and individual contributions of delegates were summarised and published by the Holy See press office, but this is no longer the case. An unwise decision, in my opinion, as it makes the entire process a secretive one. As outsiders, all we will have are rumours and the eventual final document. During the previous Synod we have seen what damage rumours can do, especially when they are neither confirmed nor denied in any clear way..
That said, there is always social media, and a number of Synod delegates are enthousiastic (or less so) users of those media. Below, I present a short (probably incomplete) list of delegates who use Twitter. It is mostly western prelates using the medium, with English being the dominant language. Other languages used are Italian, French, Spanish, German and Maltese.
- Pope Francis (obviously). As pope he convenes the Synod and acts as its president, although he delegates that duty to four delegate presidents. Pope Francis will not be commenting on the Synod proceedings, but offer prayers and short items to reflect on spiritually.
- Archbishop Charles Scicluna. Archbishop of Malta. One of three members of the Commission for Disputes.
- Bishop Robert Barron. Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and CEO of Word On Fire.
- Bishop Frank Caggiano. Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
- Archbishop José Gómez. Archbishop of Los Angeles.
- Archbishop Leo Cushley. Archbishop of Edinburgh.
- Archbishop Eamon Martin. Archbishop of Armagh.
- Archbishop Anthony Fisher. Archbishop of Sydney.
- Leonardo Cardinal Sandri. Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
- Robert Cardinal Sarah. Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
- Kevin Cardinal Farrell. Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.
- Peter Cardinal Turkson. Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
- Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi. President of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
- Gérald Cardinal Lacroix. Archbishop of Québec.
- Daniel Cardinal Sturla Berhouet. Archbishop of Montevideo.
- Blase Cardinal Cupich. Archbishop of Chicago.
- Carlos Cardinal Aguiar Retes. Archbishop of Mexico City.
- Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia. President of the Pontifical Academy for Life,
- Archbishop Peter Comensoli. Archbishop of Melbourne.
- Father Antonio Spadaro. Member of the Vatican Media Committee.
- Christoph Cardinal Schönborn. Archbishop of Vienna.
- Wilfrid Cardinal Napier. Archbishop of Durban.
- Luis Cardinal Tagle. Archbishop of Manila.
- Vincent Cardinal Nichols. Archbishop of Westminster.
- Carlos Cardinal Osoro Sierra. Archbishop of Madrid.
Not all of the prelates above use their accounts equally often or in the same way. For example, Cardinal Tagle only posts links to his ‘The Word Exposed’ Youtube catechesis talks, Cardinals Sturla Berhouet and Farrell mostly retweet, Archbishop Fisher hasn’t tweeted since February of 2017, and most use Twitter as a one-way channel. Among those who do respond to what their followers say are Cardinal Napier, Archbishop Comensoli (his Twitter profile picture at left) and Bishop Barron.
Other delegates, such as Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput and Passau’s Bishop Stefan Oster, are active on Facebook, while Belgian Bishop Jean Kockerols keeps the youth of his country up to speed via a blog.
Several delegates have already shared their arrival in Rome, and it is these (such as Archbishop Comensoli and Bishop Barron) who will perhaps offer the best idea of what goes on in the coming weeks. That said, all we will get are glimpses, and no tweeting delegate will share what goes on in the debates. So, in this age of social media and high-speed communication, the Synod of Bishops remains firmly behind closed doors.