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Father James Martin Chosen by Pope to Participate in Synod at Vatican

Jesuit Father James Martin delivers the homily during the closing Mass for the Outreach LGBTQ Catholic Ministry Conference at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City June 18, 2023. Father Martin will be among 20 U.S. representatives at the Synod of Bishops on Synodality at the Vatican this October. (Photo: OSV News/Gregory A. Shemitz)

WASHINGTON — Jesuit Father James Martin, editor at large of America magazine and founder of an outreach ministry to LGBTQ+ Catholics, has been chosen by Pope Francis to take part in the upcoming Synod of Bishops on Synodality at the Vatican this October. 

Father Martin will be among 20 U.S. representatives at the three-week gathering with more than 450 people who will be discerning future steps for the Church and discussing concerns raised by Catholics around the world compiled in regional synod reports. The U.S. members of the synod were primarily picked by the pope but five were also chosen by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

Of the total synod participants, 363 are voting members. They are primarily cardinals, bishops, and priests but also, for the first time at a synod, participants will include religious and lay men and women. 

After the Vatican issued its list of synod participants July 7, Father Martin said in a tweet that he was “honored to have been invited by the Holy Father to participate as a member of the @Synod_va. I look forward to listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, which is active and alive in all the People of God.” 

Later that day he said he had been traveling so he hadn’t had the time to “respond to all the kind wishes on the Holy Father’s invitation” to take part in the synod but he said he was “grateful to everyone and will rely on your prayers, as the Synod listens to the voice of the Holy Spirit.” 

Father Martin similarly told America magazine that he was honored to be invited to take part in this process noting that “as a Jesuit, I’m committed to this kind of group discernment and look forward to discovering what the Holy Spirit has in store for the synod, and for the Church.” 

The priest received many congratulatory messages on social media but there were also predictably negative reactions since he has frequently been criticized by some Catholics and a few bishops who have said his pastoral efforts with the LGBTQ+ Catholic community are ambiguous and cause confusion. 

Father Martin, author of the 2017 book “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity,” has repeatedly stressed that he is not trying to change Church teaching about homosexuality but is instead encouraging Catholics to welcome members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

The priest has had two private audiences with Pope Francis and has received letters of encouragement from him, including this June when the pope sent him a handwritten note greeting those attending the Outreach LGBTQ Catholic Ministry Conference at Fordham University in New York City. The letter thanked Father Martin for “all the good you are doing,” and promised his “prayers and good wishes” to all conference participants. 

The synod is officially called, “Towards a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” It is a four-year process that started in 2021 with listening sessions around the world and will culminate in a presentation to the pope and then his response.

The USCCB chose Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York; Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas; Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota; Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana; and USCCB president, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services to take part in the gathering. 

Pope Francis appointed U.S. Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago, Wilton Gregory of Washington, Robert McElroy of San Diego, Seán O’Malley of Boston, Joseph Tobin of Newark, and Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle. 

Other members of the U.S. delegation, recommended by the USCCB, are: Cynthia Bailey Manns, director of adult faith formation at the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Community in Minneapolis; Father Ivan Montelongo of the Diocese of El Paso; Richard Coll, executive director of the USCCB’s Justice, Peace, and Integral Human Development; Sister Leticia Salazar, a Sister of the Order of the Company of Mary Our Lady and chancellor for the Diocese of San Bernardino, California. Two young adults representing the U.S. are Julia Oseka, a student at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and Wyatt Olivas, a parish catechist who attends the University of Wyoming. 

Bishop Flores, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, who has been shepherding the synod work in the U.S., said that with the announcement of the delegates, “the Church enters into the universal stage of this synodal journey” and delegates can begin their work of prayer and study to prepare for the sessions. 

“All the delegates express gratitude to the Holy Father for the invitation to serve together for the good of the universal Church,” he said.

One thought on “Father James Martin Chosen by Pope to Participate in Synod at Vatican

  1. Out-of-the-box thinking is vital for the success of the forthcoming Synod. Courageous and fearless Padre James Martin can think the unthinkable. May his tribe increase. – Dr. Cajetan Coelho