After today’s morning prayer we looked at various proposals to amend the General Principles and Norms and also moved to vote on the budget. (We’d had a session to discuss it earlier in the week.) The carrot for doing this efficiently was that, if there was time, we would be able to have a first peek at the work of the four people who had begun to draft the report of the Assembly.

But first we had fun! The ExCo wanted to check that every delegation was able to vote, so they created a spoof question on the app for us. It took a bit of time and was rather chaotic – imagine 200 or so people speaking at least three different languages all saying that the question hadn’t yet appeared on their phones! As you can see from the photo, José de Pablo sj (left), our World Vice Ecclesiastical Assistant, and Manuel Martinez Arteaga (right), our World Executive Secretary, were equally puzzled. It worked out in the end and Michelle voted for us: “I’m going to abstain. I am married!”

It’s a far cry from the first CLC World Assembly in 1967 where the delegates of the then Marian Congregations accepted the first General Principles and agreed on the new name. Watch the interview with Ingeborg von Grafenstein.

More seriously, we then looked at various amendments to the General Principles which were before us. One was very basic as we had to amend our norms to accord with a mandatory decree of the Holy See’s Disastery of Laity, Family and Life and they basically ensured that no-one could be on the ExCo for too long. Then there was a proposal from the ExCo that they set up an international commission to work with the World Community on a comprehensive revision of the General Principles and Norms. My own feeling was that this was in response to the various amendments from Congo, Spain and Australia, all of which were very detailed. As it stood, we’d have to vote yes or no to each of them without any possibility of questioning details – not that you’d want to do that with 200 people! Very sensibly, the ExCo had spent time with the delegations putting forward the amendments and  after we had almost unanimously agreed to the proposition about the international commission, each of the three delegations withdrew their proposals as they knew that the commission would take them into account. I well remember the last time we went through this process, over thirty years ago now, when I was President. We spent hours in meetings discussing them and I’m hopeful that this time we shall be able to use Zoom to good effect.

Voting on the budget

The other major decision this morning was a vote on the budget. At the moment the CLC office in Rome is staffed by Manuel and Van Nguyen who has worked in the office for thirty years. It has become clear that more help is needed, especially now that José is part time, unlike his predecessors, and isn’t based in Rome. There was quite a long discussion about the various options offered but in the end there was a strong consensus to increase the subs of national communities to cover the cost of employing someone who will probably focus on communication. How the ExCo does this will be up to them, whether it’s part-time, ad hoc or whatever. Some delegations had expressed anxiety about being able to afford the increase so I was very struck by their generosity as they voted in the increase regardless.

The team of writers

Then our writers reported on their progress. I was absolutely astonished and deeply consoled by this first glimpse of their draft as they had obviously listened very deeply indeed and it was very moving to hear the process I’ve lived through articulated so clearly. The writers are (from left to right) James O’Brien from Australia who is a member of the outgoing ExCo, Marielle Matthee of the Netherlands, Gabriel Fernández Gil from Uruguay and Lucino Koyio from Kenya.

There was a bit of an opportunity for comments and questions from the floor before we went to lunch, very aware of the debt of gratitude we owe these four people who have already been working late to do what they have done and who will continue to work late before we are sent a draft to consider.

Which ‘cries of the world’ should we take a position on?

After lunch we moved back into our regional groups and in the European group decided to divide into groups of about eight. First we had to decide which ‘cries of the world’ must the Assembly take a position on. This work would feed back into the after tea plenary session. We spent most of our time on this one, using the spiritual conversation method, though when we came to write on our flipchart, we decided that some of our reflections were actually answers to the other two questions we had been asked:

  • You ARE the Assembly. What have you received that you want to see in the final report?
  • What kind of support do you need from the CLC worldwide community in your local (ie national) context?

We used the app to feed back on these questions which would be picked up by the writers and the new ExCo respectively and then headed back into the auditorium for the final session of the day.

The cries of the world

I confess I was expecting this session to be excruciating as I’ve been in far too many meetings when each group reports at length. But me of little faith, our facilitators had a cunning plan! (I seem to be confessing a lot in these posts. Should I worry about it?) The spokesperson for each group stood up and the first was asked what was their top ‘cry of the world’. Then the other spokespeople raised their hands if their groups, too, had expressed the same ‘cry of the world’. We continued around the room in this way and ended up with a list of the different cries (and how many groups shared them) which will be circulated to us tomorrow after they have been proof-read. For example, Google translate had turned ‘Laudato Si’ to ‘Laudato Yes’ 😂.

It was an excellent strategy. Everyone was heard and we had a good sense of achievement. We were able to look at the wordcloud responses to the third question too, where there was also a lot of consensus. You can see them on the screen in this photo.

Then came a very emotional moment as our three facilitators thanked us for the privilege of working with us. (They thanked us?!) Each of them spoke of how they had felt during these days and I was particularly struck by Flavio who said:

As a Jesuit, this was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.

We ended the session with some body prayer – which is what we are doing in the photo. It’s also another cunning plan of the facilitators as it’s a great method of crowd control. As soon as they start, we all go quiet and follow! We silently engaged with each other and blessed each other and when we had finished the air of jubilation and celebration in the room was tangible.

Another of our wonderful Masses followed before we went into dinner and our free evening which after queueing for our meal, talking all the time, and eating our meal, talking all the time, has tended to begin about 9.00 pm.

The end is nigh…

Tomorrow is our last day and we are having a social evening with the clowns so I may not get much of a chance to write. I’ll try to catch up on the train home, if there’s room to write. Otherwise it’ll probably be Monday as I’ll be fit for nothing when I get home on Sunday evening. Do keep looking at the website, as I’ll add all sorts of things. We started the Assembly with the website telling me that ten people (basically Alan sj, my own CLC group and my brothers!) were reading the posts but now there are many more. I’m not sure I trust the numbers but it seems that loads of people are now looking at our website, from all parts of the world, as the list here shows. Long may it last…

I’m sorry there aren’t so many pictures in this post. I’ll add some if inspiration hits and will also add some of the thinking of our group as I was very inspired by some of the sharing. But now I must go to bed! Igny’s diary has some fantastic photos in it!

(Inspiration didn’t hit and I didn’t add some of the thinking of the group… sorry.)