So at the end it all came down to 62 minutes of secret electronic voting on the text of the Relatio Synodi one minute for each paragraph. All the talking and debating done; simply Synod Fathers ‘is this paragraph Placet or Non Placet?’. Two thirds needed for it to be Placet. It was a strange experience sat there watching all these men quietly and studiously voting. No reaction at any point, even when a paragraph did not receive the necessary two thirds (3 paragraphs did not do so). The previous day’s cheerful lively discussion on the Message, and the morning’s equally cheery simple majority vote on it seemed a long time past. When all was done there was a stillness; work done. Now for a year of further exploration and a return to the subject at next year’s Ordinary Synod. Then the make up will be different as larger churches will have more representatives rather than the simple 1 per bishop’s conference this time. This could be significant when it comes to voting on formal propositions next year.
The usual thanks for all who had helped then followed and it was time to hand back to the Pope. Some clearly thought he was just going to lead us in prayer as they stood ready to join in. But no, he motioned them to sit and pulled out his papers ready to speak. He had listened studiously for the whole Synod, and now he spoke.
We had already been told that the whole relatio with voting figures would be published. It was not clear if this meant those failing to get two thirds; it became clear it would include these. Openness is to continue; the whole story is to be heard.
The Pope spoke quietly. He spoke of the temptation to live by the rules and the book; he spoke of the temptation to throw teaching and tradition away. He spoke of all the temptations that had been present for Synod members and, as 1 Cardinal said to me afterwards, all those given into in one way or another. It was very powerful. There is no doubt who is leading this church. The applause at the end was very long and very warm. There is a serenity about this man. In the morning I had spoken with him again. He spoke of the Ugandan martyrs, made saints 50 years ago that day. He wanted me to be clear that he knew that Anglicans were martyred too, and that we are bound by the blood of martyrdom. Given my previous reflection you will understand why this was a poignant conversation.
After he left the synod hall at the end of this final session he went over to the Press and chatted with them. He talked with a Mum and her baby. He was all smiles. As a journalist said, ‘He always has time for people.’
I have been deeply impressed by many that I have met here; bishops, archbishops, cardinals, my fellow fraternal delegates and the splendid lay witnesses for whom it has been an up and down ride in some ways. But most deeply I have been impressed by Francis, Bishop of Rome, a saintly man.