SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Pope Francis presided over mass in St. Peter’s Square Wednesday to formally open an unprecedented meeting on the future of the Catholic church.

At the solemn mass, progressives are hoping to see more women in leadership roles and conservatives are warning changes could split the church. Rarely in recent times has a Vatican gathering generated as much hope and fear.

Pope Francis opened the Synod of bishops three-week assembly with a call to remember that the Church exists to bring Jesus to the world and should face today’s challenges with a gaze fixed on God rather than “political calculations or ideological battles.”

Some of the main things on the agenda are the church’s relations with LGBTQ+ and divorced Catholics as well as steps to elevate more women to decision-making roles in the church.

It won’t make any binding decisions and it’s only the first session of a two-year process but it marks a defining moment for Francis and his reform agenda.

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