It is Sunday. The streets are relatively quiet.
But underneath the streets there is a holy revolution taking place in the Basilica at the Catacombs of Domitilla. Today, it was expected that more than 150 bishops would gather with indigenous leaders as witnesses from the Amazonian synod to renew the Catacombs Pact.
If you have ever traveled with FutureChurch to Rome on a pilgrimage exploring the evidence of women's leadership and ministry in early Christianity, you are familiar with the Catacombs of Domitilla. The site where thousands of early Christians, some of them martyrs were buried. There you can find a fourth-century fresco that portrays two women, Veneranda and Petronilla, with a codex and scrolls, a sign of their authority in the Early Church. Nearby in the same catacomb, is a fresco of Paul also pictured with scrolls signifying his authority.
This morning, as the bishops and indigenous leaders from the Amazonian synod gathered on this sacred ground, the bishops signed their names to the Catacombs Pact, a document that was signed (in secret) in 1965 by more than 40 bishops. During the Second Vatican Council these bishops felt an urgency to help make the Catholic Church a "church for the poor." They knew the call to holiness, solidarity, and action resided in their willingness to live simply and without the riches that came with their status. They knew they needed to model the Gospel call.
The new pact is different and extraordinary in a number of ways.
First of all, it was not done in secret.
Secondly, it affirms women's diakonia and the need to have women's voices and votes.
Thirdly, women signed the Pact. Ines San Martin reported that women signed along with other lay people and that, "As one woman went up to sign, she referred to herself as a 'synod mother,' a parallel to bishops participating in the Oct. 6-27 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon who are called 'synod fathers.'”
The new pact contains fourteen points. Thanks to Austen Ivereigh who captured the English version, the document is pictured below.
Number 12 is of great importance for women.
To recognize the services and the real diakonia of a great number of women today who direct communities in the Amazon and seek to consolidate them with an adequate ministry of women leaders of the community.
Number 9 ranks right up there as well.
To establish in our particular communities a synodal lifestyle where representatives of original peoples, missionaries, and lay people because of their baptism and in communion with their pastors have voice and vote in diocesan assemblies, in pastoral and parish councils, and ultimately everything that concerns the governance of communities.
This development is important. If more than 150 bishops took part, it bodes well for progress at the synod.
This is very very good news!
(Note: The initial report of at least 150 bishops did not come to be. The number who attended was over 200 according to some sources, but closer to 40 of those were bishops in attendance)