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Pope Francis addresses the 1st meeting of the 2023 Synod on SynodalityVideo screenshot

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Participants of the Synod on Synodality have been ordered to observe complete secrecy about everything they and others say during all the parts of the synod that are not shown on the Vatican’s YouTube channel.

In regulations issued to journalists on October 4, some 10 hours after Pope Francis officially initiated the synod’s 2023 meeting at a morning Mass, the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops presented the rules for the event. 

The regulations state that “each of the Participants is bound to confidentiality and privacy both with regard to their own interventions, as well as in regard to the interventions of other Participants.”

Such a rule of secrecy is for both during and after the synod: “This duty remains in effect even after the Synod Assembly has ended.”

Furthermore, all of the participants were explicitly banned from “recording, filming, and disseminating” the interventions and speeches made by synod members during the parts of the synod known as the “General Congregations” and “Minor Circles.” 

As LifeSite has reported, the monthlong event will be divided into five modules, which in turn will be divided into a varying series of “General Congregations,” and smaller discussion groups of “Minor Circles.”

READ: Here’s what will take place at the Synod on Synodality this October

The General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, who is in charge of the synod, will coordinate with the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications to provide publicly available video streaming of the initial General Congregations of the first four modules – these discussions will simply be a presentation of the topics to be discussed by the synod members.

Defending the reason for such secrecy, the Vatican’s regulations stated that it was “in order to guarantee the freedom of expression of each and all regarding their thoughts and to ensure the serenity of common discernment, which is the main task entrusted to the Assembly.”

As for reports of the synod’s events, these will all be handled by the Dicastery for Communications, which is led by Dr. Paolo Ruffini. 

Ruffini will provide irregular press conferences to accredited journalists of the Vatican press corps and give what will presumably be at least a partially censured summary of events so far. Fielding questions last week, Ruffini stated that while the information he would share would be limited, he would address any instances of “fake news” that was circulating about the synod. 

Already last week, the Dutch bishops revealed that the synod organizers have instructed participants “not to speak to journalists about their own expectations prior to the synod and during the synod, about their own input and the input of others.”

Previous reports had suggested that the Vatican might go so far as to implement the Pontifical Secret upon the discussions, meaning that synod participants would be bound to silence under threat of excommunication.

However, on September 21, Ruffini shied away from confirming the Pontifical Secret would be used, stating instead that the synod:

does not fall so much under the definition of secrecy but under that of confidentiality and confidentiality, of feeling part for each member of a college that has to work out the position of the Synod.

Ruffini declared that journalists must “understand that the synod is prayer, a moment of communal discernment different from the summation of individual interventions.”

This was a theme repeated at length by Pope Francis in his opening address to the synod on the evening of October 4, before the regulations being issued to the press. He highlighted “listening,” saying that:

we have to give just a communication that is a reflection of this life in the Holy Spirit. It takes an asceticism – excuse me for speaking to journalists this way – a certain fasting of the public word to guard this. And what you publish, let it be in this climate.

The Pope tried to preempt objections to his comments, downplaying the hypothesis that such silence was to protect the bishops: “No, the work of journalists is very important. But we have to help them so that they say this, this going in the Spirit. And more than the priority of speaking, there is the priority of listening.”

He commented that such a style of less reporting would remove the “pressure” of “public opinion” from the synod, citing the key themes from the previous synods on the family and the Amazon:

When there was the Synod on the Family, there was the public opinion, made by our worldliness, that it was to give communion to the divorced: and so we entered the Synod. When we had the Synod for the Amazon, there was the public opinion, the pressure, that it was to make viri probati: we went in with that pressure. 

Now there is some speculation about this synod: ‘What are they going to do? Maybe priesthood to women’… I don’t know, these things they say outside. And they say so many times that the bishops are afraid to communicate what’s going on. 

The Pope’s comments intimated that bishops being afraid of revealing the synodal discussions would suggest that those discussions were in fact opposing elements of Catholic doctrine.