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Christian world leaders gather for prayer in Rome ahead of Catholic Synod

by Ros Mayfield

Christian leaders from around the world are meeting to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, in an ecumenical vigil being held in Saint Peter’s Square.  The event, hosted by Pope Francis, comes ahead of the opening of a three-week Synod gathering of the Catholic church.  The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will be in attendance, as well as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I (pictured) and thousands of young Christians from different denominations.

The vigil, which will be televised, is to pray for the upcoming meetings of the Catholic church.  The 16th General Assembly of the Synod at the Vatican starts on Wednesday 4th October, and will bring together Church representatives from around the world, to discern and pray for the church and give counsel to the Pope.  The theme is a commitment to unity and peace, in a world torn apart by so many divisions.

Speaking from Saint Peter’s Square, Bishop Brendan Leahy, representing the Irish Bishops' Conference said the vigil was an important statement of the church coming together, and of making prayer a priority: "When we pray together as Christians, united in the name of Jesus, our prayer is more powerful.  The presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is a strong signal of encouragement from other churches that we are following the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in coming together to review how best the Church can live in a synodal way.  Pope Francis has repeated often that there is no synod without prayer.”
Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ, also from Ireland said: “We keep reminding ourselves that the Holy Spirit is the key protagonist in any Synod.  It is very encouraging that thousands of people, including leaders of other Christian communities along with so many young people, are gathering here to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  In a special way we thank the countless people across Ireland who have already assured us of their prayers, and humbly ask the faithful to continue to pray for all involved in the synodal process.”

Several Catholic Masses are being held across Ireland, in communion with those praying in Rome.

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