Pope Francis delivered his Angelus address on Sept. 18, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2022 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis announced on Sunday that the Synod on Synodality will be extended to 2024.

Speaking in his Angelus address on Oct. 16, the pope shared his decision to divide the Synod of Bishops into two sessions that will meet in Rome in October 2023 and October 2024.

Pope Francis explained that he made the decision “in order to have a more relaxed period of discernment.”

“The fruits of the synodal process under way are many, but so that they might come to full maturity, it is necessary not to be in a rush,” Francis said.

“I trust that this decision will promote the understanding of synodality as a constitutive dimension of the Church, and help everyone to live it as the journey of brothers and sisters who proclaim the joy of the Gospel,” he said.

The two sessions of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place from Oct. 4 to 29, 2023, and in October 2024, bringing together bishops from across the world to discuss and prepare a document to counsel the pope.

Pope Francis launched the Synod on Synodality in October 2021 as a worldwide undertaking during which Catholics were encouraged to submit feedback to their local dioceses.

The Catholic Church’s massive multi-year synodal process has been divided into stages. The initial diocesan listening phase concluded with the participation of 112 out of 114 of the world’s Catholic bishops’ conferences, according to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.

According to a report from the U.S. bishops’ conference, about 700,000 people participated in the diocesan phase of the synod in the U.S. out of 66.8 million Catholics in the country.

The second, continental phase is taking place from September 2022 to March 2023. In this stage, Continental Synodal Assemblies will be convened between January and March of next year.

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops describes these continental assemblies as a meeting to “reread the journey made and to continue the listening and discernment … proceeding in accord with the socio-cultural specificities of their respective regions.”

An Instrumentum laboris — or DTC (Documento per la Tappa Continentale), as the Synod of Bishops is calling it — will guide the continental phase discussions. The document is expected to be published by the end of this month or early November and is being drafted by the synod’s leadership, advisory committee, and a group of approximately 20 “experts.”

The final, universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023 and continue in October 2024 on the theme: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.”