VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Planning an ecumenical prayer vigil for the Catholic Church's Synod of Bishops and making a commitment to participating in it is an expression of "an ecumenism of solidarity," said the Rev. Anne-Laure Danet, ecumenical officer for the French Protestant Federation.
"It is extraordinary," she said. "We can pray for one another, but the best way to do it is to pray with one another."
Rev. Danet spoke to Catholic News Service and Vatican News March 15 after she and some 60 Catholic and Protestant representatives met Pope Francis at the end of a three-day gathering to plan the ecumenical prayer vigil that will be held Sept. 30 in St. Peter's Square.
She was joined at the interview by Brother Alois, prior of the ecumenical Taizé Community, members of the Vatican's synod secretariat and staff from the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity.
Brother Alois said Pope Francis noted during his meeting how "sometimes the Holy Spirit creates disorder" by effusing a variety of gifts on believers, but the Spirit also always "creates harmony" out of that diversity.
The current preparation process for the Synod of Bishops is the first to emphasize "listening to all the baptized, not just baptized Christians," said Xavière Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of the synod.
"The synod is not an event but a process," she said. "In the same way, while this vigil will be an event, more importantly it is part of a process" where Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants have been working together for months, sharing their own experiences of synodality and praying together.
Brother Alois noted that for some of the Protestants participating in the March meeting, "this was their first visit to Rome and for some Catholics living in Rome, this was the first time they visited the Waldensians here. So, we are still just starting to create these bonds, which is why we have had three preparatory meetings -- two in Taizé (France) and one here" at the Vatican.
In addition to the ecumenical vigil in St. Peter's Square, young adult Christians aged 18-35 are being invited to Rome Sept. 30-Oct. 1 for a weekend of ecumenical prayer and workshops on the meaning of synodality and its implications for shared responsibility for the lives of the churches and the Christian mission to share the Gospel.
The young adult program will be coordinated by the Taizé Community; the event has its own website: together2023.net.
"For the synod, we need moments to take a breath, to pray, to express our profound unity in Christ," Brother Alois said. Without those common expressions of a common faith the discussions and debates that take place in the synod hall risk becoming divisive rather than expressions of a diversity of gifts given to the church by the Holy Spirit.
Sister Becquart said the prayer vigil also "will shine a light on a key aspect of the synod — that it is a spiritual process."