One nice thing about today was that we had the morning off. This was beneficial for me as I had a telephone meeting with Montreal the day before that, due to time zone differences, had me up past midnight. It gave me a chance to go through a large amount of emails and other paperwork so that I am not too far behind when I get back to Canada.
The afternoon session was to start at 4:30 pm as usual, but I decided to go early, taking my time. A massive steel gate restricts entry into the Vatican City zone, so every day we've had to pass a security check to get to the Paul VI hall. The post is manned by two Swiss Guards (easy to spot even if distant, thanks to the colourful clothes).
Don't let the fancy pants fool you, those guys are trained soldiers. They are partnered with the Vatican City Gendarmes, one of whom is in plain clothes just to the left (the guy in a tie).
As I was early, I decided to take some extra time of quiet prayer in the small synod chapel. This is located on the main floor entrance to the synod hall, just before entering.
Humble but lovely.
The purpose of our session today was not to discuss further the synod text, as we had not received the final draft yet. Instead, it was to elect the members of the next Synod Council. This is a body of bishops which assists the Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops in the follow-up of previous Synods as well as in the preparation of future ones. It meets between Synods for that purpose.
Representation was determined by geographic region: 1 for the Eastern Catholic Churches, 3 for Africa, 3 for Latin America, 2 for North America, 3 for Europe, 3 for Asia, and 1 for Oceania. Only diocesan bishops from these regions were eligible to be elected, but all bishops could vote.
The election took some time because to be elected a candidate needs 50%+1 of the votes. To speed things up we use electronic voting controls:
Given that the votes tend to split quite widely, a first ballot is taken that mainly determines if there is a consensus around a particular candidate or set of candidates. Once we know who the front runners are, we do a second ballot. If no one is elected, only the top two candidates are retained, and a third ballot is taken. Of course, with only two candidates one of them must get 50%+1... unless there is a tie. In the event of a tie, the winner is the person most senior in age.
Given this process, you can imagine it took some time. There were 16 positions to elect. If each took 3 ballots, we had to vote up to 48 times... waiting for the results of each ballot each time... Yeah, it took a while.
There were a few surprises. The African bloc had clearly done some meetings beforehand, because none of the elections went to a third ballot, and one candidate actually got an absolute majority on the first ballot! Also, those elected were by language group: one English, one French, and one Portuguese. It was pretty clear they came into the election having done some consensus work in advance.
The other elections went pretty much according to procedure. For one bloc, one potential candidate (who clearly had been approached beforehand to see if he's accept to be elected) made a public plea not to be elected. For another bloc, a lot of votes concentrated around a candidate who had not been present at the Synod at all! And for a third bloc, there was an actual tie result, so that the vote went to the older of the two candidates. Kind of ironic coming from a Synod on youth, but them's the rules.
After the election, we were all invited to a special event organized by the youth "auditors" at the Synod. The purpose was the them to say thanks to the Holy Father and to the members of the Synod for the chance to have participated in this historic occasion. The were was music, singing, dancing, and poetry reading.
Note the grand piano in the background. The person singing a song from his homeland is Vincent, from Nigeria. He was in my small group. He is being accompanied on guitar and drum (too many red hats in the way to see the instruments, but you can see the other two young people in the photo as well).
After it was all over I headed back to the residence. I could not resist this one last shot of Saint Peter at night:
Not bad. Not bad at all.