A bishop watches a video screen as his tablet with synod documents is open during the first session of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2023. CNS photo/Lola Gomez

Confidential synod documents made available on unsecured server

  • October 16, 2023

VATICAN CITY -- Some confidential documents from the assembly of the Synod of Bishops were accessible online to anyone who had the address before synod officials restored the need for a username and password, said Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication.

The Pillar, a U.S.-based Catholic news site, reported Oct. 13 that it had accessed the documents stored on the cloud without needing credentials.

In addition to information available publicly, like the worksheets for the assembly's small working groups included in the synod working document, The Pillar said it saw the confidential "rosters of synodal participants and their working group assignments -- along with the reports filed by working groups at the conclusion of the synod's first segment of discussion."

At the synod press briefing the next day, Ruffini said access originally was restricted to those with credentials, but so many synod participants were having trouble accessing the documents that the synod general secretariat "decided to create an open link for those who knew the address."

Once The Pillar and others reported the security breach, Ruffini said the synod restored the need for a username and password and set up a help desk at the synod to assist participants who had trouble accessing the documents.

The synod, he said, wanted to ensure all participants could access the documentation for their prayer and discernment, so in addition to publicly available information, it uploaded the 35 small group reports on the synod's first topic, synodality.

Those reports have not been made public; they are to form the basis for the first section of a synthesis of the assembly's entire work at the end of October.

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