On the Road Together – Wonderment, gratitude, relief, weariness

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane

Archbishop Mark Coleridge

October 25, 2015

When we returned to the Synod Hall yesterday afternoon for voting, there was another touch of high farce – an unscripted skit to finish this Synod of surprises. After we’d recited the Adsumus prayer (used daily at Vatican II), the president of the day welcomed us back and then passed the microphone to the Secretary General, as he normally did.

Cardinal Baldisseri began by reminding us that we had to remember the change from “ora legale” to “ora solare” – in other words, turn you clocks back. Glad he mentioned that; I would certainly have turned up an hour late for the closing Mass this morning. It was one of Cardinal Baldisseri’s finest moments.

He then proceeded in the normal way to register the presences in the Hall, which is something done at the start of each session. But this was more important than usual because we were about to vote on the final document. That’s where the farce began. At the first attempt, 259 registered as present. But then two more bishops arrived belatedly, so we had to start all over again. Now we had 261. But then, in slow succession, two more entered the Hall, the last (a Curial cardinal!) to resounding applause. So we had to start all over again. Some were getting tetchy, but I found it seriously comical. After a third registration, we had 263 and we were told that now the two-thirds vote required to pass a paragraph was 177. Finally we could begin the voting. We all looked furtively at the doors to make sure no more stragglers could be seen.

I should add that we have these little handsets at our seats on which you press any number from 1-9 to register your presence in the Hall. The handset also has one button saying “placet” (Latin for OK) and another saying “non placet” (Latin for not OK). We used these for voting. If you liked a paragraph (or at least thought it wasn’t offensive) you pressed “placet” and then another button saying “Confirmo”. If you felt slightly uneasy about it or hated it, you pressed “non placet” and then “Confirmo”. In all the pressing, you hoped to hell that the system worked. This evening it did, though the Archbishop of Sao Paolo had to call for a number of technicians at one point. They either fixed his handset or decided that his vote didn’t really matter.

We made our way through the 94 paragraphs of the final document in something like 90 minutes, pressing our buttons and recording the results. All paragraphs received the required two-thirds majority, a couple only just. This was a minor triumph in itself. Mind you, there were only a handful of paragraphs that proved controversial, and it’s not hard to guess what they were about. You’ll see what I mean when the document is published with the votes recorded. This was something the Pope announced at the end of the session – that the final document would be published with the votes. That’s good.

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