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SYNODUS EPISCOPORUM
BULLETIN

of the Commission for information of the
SPECIAL ASSEMBLY FOR AMERICA
OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS

16 November-12 December 1997

"Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ,
the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America"


The Bulletin of the Synod of Bishops is only a working instrument for journalistic use and the translations from the original are not official.


English Edition

 

02 - 15.11.1997

SUMMARY

GENERAL INFORMATION ON THE SYNOD

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS

This information has been collected and compiled solely as an assistance and has no official status.

The Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution established by Pope Paul VI, 15 September 1965, in response to the desire of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council to keep alive the positive spirit engendered by the conciliar experience.

Literally speaking the word "synod", derived from two Greek words syn meaning "together" and hodos meaning "road" or "way", means a "coming together". A synod is a religious meeting or assembly at which bishops, gathered their information and experiences, in the common pursuit of pastoral solutions which have universal validity and application. Generally speaking, the Synod can be defined as an assembly of bishops representing the Catholic episcopate, with the task of helping the Pope in the government of the universal Church by rendering their counsel. Pope John Paul II has referred to the Synod as "a particularly fruitful expression and instrument of the collegiality of bishops".

Even before the Second Vatican Council an idea was taking shape for a structure which could provide the bishops with the means to assist the Pope in some manner to be determined, in his governing of the universal Church.

On 5 November 1959, His Eminence, Silvio Cardinal Oddi, then an Archbishop and Apostolic Pro-Nuncio in the United Arab Republic (Egypt), proposed to establish a central governing body of the Church or, to use his own words, "a consultative body". He stated: "From many parts of the world there come complaints that the Church does not have a permanent consultative body, apart from the Roman congregations. Therefore, a kind of 'Council in miniature' should be established and include persons from the Church worldwide who would meet periodically, even once a year, to discuss major concerns and to suggest possible new paths in the workings of the Church. This body would extend throughout the entire Church since episcopal conferences bring together all or part of the hierarchy of a country or countries. Other bodies, like C.E.L.AM (The Latin American Episcopal Council), for example, extends its activity for the benefit of the whole continent".

On 22 December 1959, His Eminence, Cardinal Alfrink, Archbishop of Utrecht, wrote: "In clear terms the Council proclaims that the government of the universal Church is by right exercised by the college of bishops with the Pope as its head. From here it follows that, in one sense, the care of the universal Church is the responsibility of every bishop taken singularly, and also, in another sense, that all bishops participate in the governing of the Church worldwide. This can be done not only in calling an ecumenical council, but also in the creation of new institutions. Perhaps some permanent council of specialized bishops, chosen from the Church, could be given the charge of a legislative function in union with the Supreme Pontiff and the cardinals of the Roman Curia. The Roman Congregations would then maintain only a consultative and executive power".

However, it was Pope Paul VI who gave force to these ideas, while he was still Archbishop of Milan. In speech commemorating the death of Pope John XXIII, he made reference to an "ongoing collaboration of the episcopate that is not yet in effect, which would remain personal and unitive, but given the responsibility of governing the whole Church". After his election as Pope he kept returning to the concept of collaboration within the episcopal body - the bishops in union with the successor of Saint Peter - in a discourse he gave to the Roman Curia (21 September 1963), at the opening of the second session of the Second Vatican Council (29 September 1963) and again at its closing (4 December 1963).

Finally at the conclusion of a speech which opened the concluding session of the Council (14 September 1965), Pope Paul VI himself made public his intention to establish the Synod of Bishops in the following words: "The advanced information that We Ourselves are happy to share with you is that we intend to give you some institution, called for by this Council, a Synod of Bishops, which will be made up of bishops nominated for the most part by the episcopal conferences with our approval, and called by the Pope for his consultation and collaboration according to the needs of the Church when it might seem to him opportune for the well-being of the Church.. It goes without saying that this collaboration of the episcopate should bring the greatest joy to the Holy See and to the whole Church. In a particular way it will serve a useful purpose in the daily work of the Roman Curia, to which we owe so much recognition for its most valuable help, and for which, as bishops in their diocese, We also have permanent need in Our apostolic concerns. News and norms will be made known to this assembly as soon as possible. We did not wish to deprive Ourselves of the honor and pleasure of imparting to you this brief communication, and once more personally testify to Our trust, esteem and fraternity. We place this splendid and promising innovation under the protection of Mary, the Mother of God".

On the next day, 15 September 1965 at the beginning of the 128th General Assembly, the then Bishop Pericle Felici, General Secretary of the Council, promulgated the motu proprio Apostolica sollicitudo with which the Synod of Bishops was officially instituted.

NOTES ON THE SYNODAL PROCESS

In order to fulfill its mission, the Synod of Bishops works according to a methodology based on collegiality, a concept which characterizes every stage of the synod process: from the first steps of preparation to the conclusions reached in each synodal assembly. Briefly stated, the work method alternates between analysis and synthesis, consulting interested parties and decisions on the part of competent authorities, according to a feed-back dynamic allowing the ongoing verification of results and the undertaking of new proposals. Each part of this process takes place within the climate of collegial communion.

Already in the preparatory stage, the topic of the synodal assembly results from collegiality. The first official step in the process is to consult the Patriarchates, Bishops' Conferences, Heads of Vatican Offices of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General for suggestions of possible topics for a Synod. Recently, this consultation has been anticipated by an informal solicitation of the Synod Fathers in the closing days of the General Assembly for their preference in the matter. However, in both cases, the bishops are asked to bear in mind the following criteria:

a) that the topic have a universal character, that is, a reference and application to the whole Church;

b) that the topic have a contemporary character and urgency, in a positive sense; that is: having the capacity of exciting new energies and movement in the Church towards growth;

c) that the topic have a pastoral focus and application as well as a firm doctrinal basis.

d) that the topic have a feasibility; in other words, that it should carry a potential that can actually be accomplished.

For a topic - which must include reasons for its choice - the suggestions are classified, analyzed and examined during a meeting of the Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. Afterwards, the Council submits the results of the meeting, together with pertinent recommendations, to the Holy Father who makes the final decision on the topic for treatment in the synodal assembly. At the next meeting, the Council prepares an outline for development and presentation of the synod topic in the document called the Lineamenta. The drafting of this document represents the combined work of the Council members, theologians, who have a certain expertise in the material to be treated in the synodal assembly, and the staff of the General Secretariat, who coordinate the various efforts. After studying the text and making the necessary revisions, the Council drafts a final version which is submitted to the Holy Father for his approval. The document is then translated into the world's major languages and sent to the Episcopate of the Church to encourage and promote study, discussion and prayer concerning the Synod's topica at local level. The Lineamenta from the Latin word meaning "outline" is, by its very nature,extremely broad in scope meant to elicit a wide range of observations and reactions. Though the first and most authoritative recipients of the Lineamenta are obviously the bishops and the bishops' conferences, they have full liberty to broaden their basis of consultation. After gathering and summarizing suggestions, reactions and responses to the various aspects of the Lineamenta topic, the bishops prepare a report which is then sent to the General Secretariat by a certain date.

Having received the above material, the Council of the General Secretariat-always with the help of specialists on the subject-proceeds to draft another document called the Instrumentum laboris, which will serve as the basis and reference-point during synodal discussion. This "working document", though rendered public, is only a provisional text which will become the object of discussion during the Synod. The document is nota final draft of the final conclusions but only a text which aims at helping to focus discussion on the Synod topic. After its subsequent submission to the Holy Father and following his approval, the document is translated into the major languages and sent to the bishops and those members who are to participate in the General Assembly. At times, the Holy Father has granted permission for the text to be made public so that it will receive a wide circulation, e.g., since 1983 this has been the case with the Instrumentum laboris of a given synodal assembly. The bishop delegates and members read the document to familiarize themselves with the contents which will then be discussed at the General Assembly.of the Synod.

As a result of preparation work in the local Churches, based on the above-mentioned documents, (i.e., Lineamenta and Instrumentum laboris), the bishops are thereby able to present to the synod assembly the experiences and aspirations of each community as well as the fruit of the preliminary discussions of the National Episcopal Conferences.

Three phases characterize the synod's working sessions

a) during the first phase , each member offers a presentation of the situation in his particular Church. This encourages an exchange of faith and cultural experiences on the synod topic and contributes an initial picture of the situation of his Church, which still further development and refinement.

b) In light of these presentations, the Synod Relator formulates a series of points for discussion during the second phase , when all the synodal members divide into small groups--called circuli minores--according to the various languages spoken. The reports of each one of these groups are read in the plenary session. At this time, the Synod Fathers are given the opportunity to ask questions to clarify the subjects expressed and are able to make comments.

c) In the third phase work proceeds through the formulation of suggestions and observations in a more precise and definite forms so that the assembly is able to vote the propositions. Normally, there are two votes. At the first, together with a vote "placet" o "non placet", amendments can be proposed with the words "placet iuxta modum". These amendments may or may not be incorporated in the final text, depending on the decision of a special commission constituted for this purpose, which, in case of refusal, is to substantiate its decision. In the second vote, the members can only declare for or against the proposition.

At the end of a General Assembly of the Synod, the General Secretary oversees the work of archiving the material and drafting the report on the work of the synod for submission to the Holy Father. No established norm exists concerning the final document from the synodal assembly. At the conclusion of the first three synodal assemblies (1967 and 1971 Ordinary General Assemblies and the 1969 Extraordinary General Assembly) the conclusions were submitted to the attention of the Pope with recommendations in response to the problems expressed. Instead, after the 1974 Third Ordinary General Assembly the Holy Father himself, taking into account the synodal propositions and final reports, drafted the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi. A similar process was followed in the remaining Ordinary General Synodal Assemblies (1977, 1980, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1994), from which the following Apostolic Exhortations are associated respectively, Catechesi tradendae, Familiaris consortio, Reconciliatio et paenitentia, Christifideles laici, Pastores dabo vobis and Vita consecrata. At the conclusion of the Special Assembly for Africa (1994), the Holy Father promulgated the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa which, with so many good results is at present fostering reflection and pastoral initiatives on this continent. In May, 1997, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation for the Special Assembly for Lebanon (1995) was published during a papal trip to Lebanon as part of the celebration phase of the Special Assembly. Since the 1987 Synod, the Council of the General Secretariat and the General Secretary were collegially involved in the process leading to the publication of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, the papal document resulting from the Synod. With this and other work on the preceding synod completed, the General Secretary immediately begins to prepare for the next General Assembly of the Synod.

As can be observed, collegial methodology is operative from the very beginning (through the choice of topic), during the preparation (through the development of the topic in the Lineamenta) and the actual celebration of the synod assembly, to the publication of the document, which is the fruit and crowning-point of the synod itself. In this way, it may be said that the Synod works as a collegial body through which, during the first stage, the faith and life experiences of the Christian communities are taken into account; later, in plenary sessions, these elements are recapitulated and enlightened by faith and then, in a spirit of communion, propositions are formulated which, through the Holy Father, who is the principle of unity in the Church, return to the particular Churches as oxygenated blood returns to arteries to enliven the human body.

For this collegiality to fully realize its potential, a selfless spirit of must exist among all those called upon to participate in the preparation of a synodal assembly; particularly the episcopal conferences which gather the Pastors of the local Churches where the faith of the People of God is lived and experienced in all its vigor and richness. The principle way in which the collegial participation of the episcopal conferences receives concrete form lies in their responses to the Lineamenta. The greater the number of episcopal conferences which respond, the more rich and varied will be the elements which, faithfully reflecting the life of the local Churches, constitute true reference points for both the drafting of the Instrumentum laboris, and the discussion in the synod hall.

[00004-02.05] [00000] [Original text: plurilingual]

CHRONOLOGY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS

The Synod of Bishops was established by Pope Paul Vl by Motu Proprio Apostolica sollicitudo of 15 September 1965.

Pope Paul Vl gave the definition of the Synod of Bishops at the Sunday Angelus of 22 September 1974: "It is an ecclesiastic institution, which, on interrogating the signs of the times and as well as trying to provide a deeper interpretation of divine designs and the constitution of the Catholic Church, we set up after Vatican Council II in order to foster the unity and cooperation of bishops around the world with the Holy See. It does this by means of a common study concerning the conditions of the Church and a joint solution on matters concerning Her mission. It is neither a Council nor a Parliament but a special type of Synod".

1. The First Ordinary General Assembly from 29 September - 29 October 1967, on the topic "Preservation and strengthening of the Catholic faith, its integrity, its force, its development, its doctrinal and historical coherence";

2. The First Extraordinary General Assembly from 11 - 28 October 1969, on the topic "Cooperation between the Holy See and the Episcopal Conferences";

3. The Second Ordinary General Assembly from 30 September - 6 November 1971, on the topic "The Ministerial Priesthood and Justice in the World";

4. The Third Ordinary General Assembly from 27 September - 26 October 1974, on the topic "Evangelization in the Modern World";

5. The Fourth Ordinary General Assembly from 30 September - 29 October 1977, on the topic "Catechesis in our Time" ;

6. Special Assembly for the Netherlands from 14 - 31 January 1980, on the topic "The Pastoral Situation in the Netherlands";

7. The Fifth Ordinary General Assembly from 26 September - 25 October 1980, on the topic "The Christian Family";

8. The Sixth Ordinary General Assembly from 29 September - 29 October 1983, on the topic "Penance and Reconciliation in the Mission of the Church";

9. The Second Extraordinary General Assembly from 24 November - 8 December 1985 on the topic "The Twentieth Anniversary of the Conclusion of the Second Vatican Council";

10. The Seventh Ordinary General Assembly from 1 - 30 October 1987, on the topic: "The Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World";

11. The Eighth Ordinary General Assembly from 30 September - 28 October 1990, on the topic "The Formation of Priests in Circumstances of the Present Day";

12. Special Assembly for Europe from 28 November - 14 December 1991, on the topic "So that we might be witnesses of Christ who has set us free";

13. Special Assembly for Africa from 10 April - 8 May 1994, on the topic "The Church in Africa and Her Evangelizing Mission Towards the Year 2000: 'You Shall Be My Witnesses' (Acts 1:8)";

14. The Ninth Ordinary General Assembly from 2 - 29 October 1994, on the topic "The Consecrated Life and Its Role in the Church and in the World";

15. Special Assembly for Lebanon from 26 November - 14 December 1995, on the topic "Christ is Our Hope: Renewed by His Spirit, in Solidarity We Bear Witness to His Love".

16. Special Assembly for America from 16 November - 12 December 1997, on the topic "Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America";

17. Special Assembly for Asia, date to be determined, on the topic "Jesus Christ the Savior and His Mission of Love and Service in Asia: '...That They May Have Life, and Have it Abundantly'" (Jn 10:10);

18. Special Assembly for Oceania, date to be determined, on the topic "Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth, Living His Life";

19. Second Special Assembly for Europe, date to be determined, on the topic "Jesus Christ, Alive in His Church, Source of Hope for Europe";

20. Tenth Ordinary General Assembly, date to be determined, on the topic "The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World".

SUMMARY OF THE SYNOD ASSEMBLIES TO DATE

1. The First Ordinary General Assembly

In Session: 29 September - 29 October 1967

Synod Fathers: 197

Pope Paul VI stated the goals for this first general assembly: "...the preservation and the strengthening of the Catholic faith, its integrity, its force, its development, its doctrinal and historical coherence". One result of the meeting was a recommendation by the bishops to set up an international commission of theologians to assist the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as well as to broaden a discussion on approaches to theological research. In 1969 Pope Paul VI established just such a commission.

The Synod also called for a revision of the Code of Canon Law of 1917 in an attempt to make it more pastoral and more contemporary in tone and emphasis. The work was subsequently begun by Pope Paul VI and brought to completion under Pope John Paul II with the promulgation in 1983 of the Revised Code of Canon Law.

Other pastoral questions were discussed and submitted to the Pope as recommendations: that episcopal conferences should have major control over seminaries in their respective areas; procedures relating to mixed marriages were recommended and approved by the Pope in 1970; and approval was given for the New Order of the Mass which was put into effect in 1969.

2. The First Extraordinary General Assembly (cf. Canon 346)

In Session: 11 - 28 October 1969

Synod Fathers: 146

This specially convoked General Assembly had as its agenda to seek and examine ways and means of putting into practice the collegiality of bishops with the Pope, a subject which gained much attention in the declarations on the Church formulated at the Second Vatican Council. This meeting opened the door to wider participation by the bishops with the Pope and each other in the pastoral care of the universal Church.

The main emphasis of these sessions involved two basic points: 1) the collegiality of the bishops with the Pope and 2) the relation of episcopal conferences to the Pope and to individual bishops. Various recommendations were subsequently submitted to the Pope, three of which received immediate attention: 1) that the Synod meet at regular intervals--every two years (subsequently changed to 'every 3 years'); 2) that the General Secretariat organize and operate between synodal sessions; and 3) that the bishops be permitted to suggest topics for the future assemblies.

Between the second and third synodal assemblies, an advisory Council for the General Secretariat was formed made up of 12 elected bishops and 3 papal appointees. Such a Council first met from 12-15 May 1970 and was intended to facilitate communication with episcopal conferences and the formulation of the agenda for the subsequent assembly. After this meeting a general consultation of the bishops worldwide was begun for suggested topics for future assemblies (Such consultation now begins in the final days of a synodal assembly). Since that time the Council of the General Secretariat, elected from each Synod in light of preparation for the following Synod, has become a permanent feature of the General Secretariat.

3. The Second Ordinary General Assembly

In Session: 30 September - 6 November 1971 (longest to date)

Topic: "The Ministerial Priesthood and Justice in the World"

Synod Fathers: 210

In the course of their discussion the bishops praised priests worldwide for their dedication in their ministry to Word and Sacrament as well as their pastoral work in the apostolate. At the same time, attention was given to various difficulties experienced by priests in the ministry.

In addition, the bishops treated the subject of justice, stating the need to relate the Gospel to existing worldwide and local circumstances. In response they outlined an 8-point program for international action, and made recommendations that the Church on the local level foster education and ecumenical collaboration in the field of justice.

4. The Third Ordinary General Assembly

In Session: 27 September - 26 October 1974

Synod Fathers: 209

Topic: "Evangelization in the Modern World"

At this assembly the bishops re-emphasized the essential missionary character of the Church and the duty of each member to bear witness to Christ in the world. In a related way the subject of liberation was treated, being linked to the work of evangelization which seeks to free a person from sin. The bishops' recommendations and proposals submitted to the Pope, were used in the formulation of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi.

5. The Fourth Ordinary General Assembly

In Session: 30 September - 29 October 1977

Synod Fathers: 204

Topic: "Catechesis in our Time"

The discussion of the bishops which gave special attention to the catechesis of children and young people resulted in a series of 34 proposals or "Propositions" and over 900 suggestions regarding the subject. Six general areas were treated in the these recommendations: the importance of catechetical renewal, the nature of true catechesis, the persons involved in catechesis, the ongoing need of catechesis for all Christians, the means or channels of catechesis and the special aspects affecting catechesis.

On this occasion the bishops issued for the first time a synodal statement entitled, "The Message to the People of God". In this message the bishops pointed out that Christ is the center of salvation and therefore catechesis. At the same time they emphasized that all Christians have the responsibility of bringing Christ to the world.

Shortly after the conclusion of this Synod Pope John Paul II issued the Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi tradendae, which utilized a great many of the bishops' insights and proposals.

6. Special Assembly for The Netherlands

In Session: 14 - 31 January 1980

Synod Fathers: 19

Topic: "The Pastoral Situation in The Netherlands"

The Particular Synod for The Netherlands, or the so-called "Dutch Synod", held in Rome, treated the Vatican II concept of mystery of Church communion and its practical implications, both local and universal, centering on the figure of the bishop as Teacher of the Faith and Pastor of Souls, both in his diocese and in the episcopal conference. At its conclusion the assembly adopted resolutions pertaining to the ministerial priesthood, religious life, the participation of the laity in the mission of the Church, the sacraments, the Eucharist and Confession, liturgy, catechesis and ecumenism, all based on the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. A specially formed Synod Council instituted at the end of this particular Synod periodically meets with the General Secretariat to continue to assess the pastoral situation and to promote the implementation of the Synod resolutions.

7. The Fifth Ordinary General Assembly

In Session: 26 September - 25 October 1980

Synod Fathers: 216

Topic: "The Christian Family"

A reaffirmation of the Church's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the contents of the encyclical Humanae vitae was central to the work of this Synod. In the course of their work the bishops produced a written message entitled, "A Message to Christian Families in the Modern World", and proposed a "Charter for the Rights of the Family" which Pope John Paul II subsequently acted upon in 1983. From the discussion and proposals of the assembly the Pope issued the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio.

8. The Sixth Ordinary General Assembly

In Session: 29 September - 29 October 1983

Synod Fathers: 221

Topic: "Penance and Reconciliation in the Mission of the Church"

The assembly and theme coincided with the "extraordinary" Holy Year proclaimed by the Holy Father to commemorate the 1950th year of the Redemption of the World through the Death of Christ. At this time the bishops discussed related matters, emphasizing the need of applying the fruits of Christ's redemption to a person's life and, as a result, to society. In a statement issued by the assembly the bishops called the world to "reconciliation" and proclaimed "the Church as a Sacrament of reconciliation and a sign of the mercy of God toward the sinner". The bishops' work during the Synod served as the basis for the Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia which for the first time was designated as a "Post Synodal" document.

9. The Second Extraordinary General Assembly

In Session: 24 November - 8 December 1985

Synod Fathers: 165

Topic: "The Twentieth Anniversary of the Conclusion of the Second Vatican Council"

Specially convened by Pope John Paul II (cf. Canon 346), the purpose of this assembly was to commemorate the Council's happening and to assess the state of Church renewal. According to statute the Synod brought together all the presidents of the over 100 episcopal conferences worldwide and various other persons. The discussions centered on the documents of the Second Vatican Council and their implementation in the Church around the world. At this session the bishops produced a final report (Relatio Finalis), issued at the closing session, along with a "Message to the People of God".

10. The Seventh Ordinary General Assembly

In Session: 1 - 30 October 1987

Synod Fathers: 232

Topic: "The Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World"

Through a consideration of the concepts of vocation ("being") and mission ("doing") in the Vatican II context of Church communion, the bishops sought to emphasize the distinctive nature of the lay faithful in the Church's life (Communion in Holiness) and Her work of evangelization in the world (Secular Character). Because of the topic this Synod witnessed a significant presence of laypersons as auditors; laypersons were called upon to address the general assembly and share insights in the small groups, and for the first time, a lay woman and man were appointed as adjunct special secretaries. The information resulting from the Synod, particularly the 54 propositions of the General Assembly, were used in the formulation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christi fideles Laici.

11. The Eighth Ordinary General Assembly

In Session: 30 September - 28 October 1990

Synod Fathers: 238

Topic: "The Formation of Priests in Circumstances of the Present Day"

Taking into consideration the work of the Second Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod (1971) which gave a theological treatment to the priesthood and its implications in the priestly ministry, this Synod was more pastoral in tone, centering upon priestly formation and the "person" of the priest himself--both religious and diocesan--before and after ordination. Notable in the sessions was the general accord of the bishops in their discussion and treatment of the subject. At the Synod's conclusion the bishops offered 41 propositions to the Holy Father which were used, along with other information resulting from the Synod process, in the preparation of the Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation entitled Pastores dabo vobis.

12. Special Assembly for Europe

In Session: 28 November - 14 December 1991

Synod Fathers: 137

Topic: "So that we might be witnesses of Christ who has set us free"

On 22 April 1990 during an Apostolic visit to Velehrad, Czechoslovakia, the site of the tomb of St. Methodius, co-patron of Europe with Sts. Cyril and Benedict, the Holy Father announced his desire to convoke a Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops so as to discern the "kairos" of the situation created by the great changes taking place in Europe and to consider the role of the Church in the efforts on the continent towards renewal and reconstruction. The special nature of the synod and its brief preparation period required various modifications to Synod statutes, e.g., instead of the Lineamenta and Instrumentum laboris documents, a brief guide to reflection (Itinerarium) and a synopsis (Summarium) were prepared; special criteria were devised for episcopal delegates so as also to give substantial representation bishops from Central and Eastern Europe, etc. One of the noteworthy events in the preparation was a pre-synodal symposium sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture which gathered intellectuals from both eastern and western Europe in a common reflection on the synod theme. Likewise, representatives from the Orthodox Church and major Christian communities in Europe were invited in a spirit of ecumenism to participate for the first time in a synodal assembly as "fraternal delegates". The work of the Special Assembly culminated in the publication of a Declaration, in which the Synod Fathers outlined a program for the new evangelization of Europe and made an appeal for universal solidarity among all European citizens. Subsequently, a group of members from the special assembly was appointed to devise ways of implementing the conclusions of the Declaration through a strengthening of the Concilium Conferentiarum Episcopalium Europae (CCEE)in light of the present circumstances.

13. Special Assembly for Africa

In Session: 10 April - 8 May 1994

Synod Fathers: 242

Topic: "The Church in Africa and Her Evangelizing Mission Towards the Year 2000: 'You Shall Be My Witnesses' (Acts 1:8)"

On 6 January 1989 the Holy Father announced his intention to convene the special assembly and appointed a pre-preparatory commission, made up primarily of members of the African episcopate. The following June, this group was expanded to constitute the Council of the General Secretariat, and entrusted with helping prepare for the synodal assembly. In conjunction with the meeting of representatives of the African episcopate in Lome, Togo, July, 1990, the Lineamenta document "outlining" the Synod topic was published, beginning a period of prayerful reflection on the local level. The responses from the local Churches were used in formulating the Special Assembly's "working paper" or Instrumentum laboris, released during the Holy Father's Ninth Pastoral Visit to Africa, Kampala, Uganda, February, 1993. With this document as a point of reference the Synod Fathers discussed in the month long session the general topic of Evangelization from the following perspectives: 1) Proclamation of the Message; 2) Inculturation; 3) Dialogue; 4) Justice and Peace; and 5) Means of Social Communication. In addition to the lively and in-depth discussion of the topic during the various phases of synod activity, a highlight of the Special Assembly were the opening and closing ceremonies which incorporated many elements from liturgical traditions in Africa. The resulting documentation includes a lengthy Message to the People of God, released at the conclusion of the Special Assembly, and the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation entitled Ecclesia in Africa, signed and presented to the Church in conjunction with the synodal visit to Africa by the Holy Father, 14-20 September 1995, for the Special Assembly's celebration phase. A Post-Synodal Council, elected from the Special Assembly, continues to offer assistance to the General Secretariat. A follow-up meeting, 17-19 June 1997, devoted attention to evaluating the impact and implementation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the African continent.

14. The Ninth Ordinary General Assembly

In Session: 2 - 29 October 1994

Synod Fathers: 245

Topic: "The Consecrated Life and Its Role in the Church and in the World"

On 30 December 1991 the Holy Father announced the convocation of a synodal assembly to give attention to the consecrated life. Some saw it as a logical completion of the treatment of the states of life in the Church begun in the previous two Ordinary Assemblies on the laity and the priesthood respectively. The period of prayer and reflection prior to the synodal Assembly was particularly fruitful, eliciting a widespread exchange not simply within the institutes of consecrated life and the societies of apostolic life, but also within national and international bodies, not to mention various individual and group initiatives with the Church's hierarchy and various departments of the Roman Curia. The Synod Fathers touched on a vast number of subjects associated with the topic and listened attentively to the many interventions made by the great number of auditors. Particularly noteworthy during this synodal gathering was the number of bishop members from religious congregations, the appointment of a woman and man religious as Adjunct Special Secretaries, as well as the significantly increased number of women and men from the consecrated life as theologians and auditors. The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata was published 25 March 1996.

15. Special Assembly for Lebanon

In Session: 26 November - 14 December 1995

Synod Fathers: 70

Topic: "Christ is Our Hope: Renewed by His Spirit, in Solidarity We Bear Witness to His Love"

Because of the particular needs of the Church in Lebanon created by the prolonged situation of war, the Holy Father announced on 6 June 1991 his intention to convoke a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Lebanon. After subsequent initial meetings with the Patriarchs of the Oriental Churches in Lebanon, a ten-member Council, representing the 6 sui juris Catholic Churches in Lebanon, was appointed in January, 1992 to render assistance in the required preparatory work. At the same time, a Lebanese bishop was also designated as an on-site co-ordinator. The Lineamenta of the Special Assembly was made public on 13 March 1993, beginning the phase of prayer and reflection on the synod topic by the local dioceses and various Church bodies in Lebanon, a period which lasted until 1 November 94. The responses to the Lineamenta were incorporated in the Instrumentum laboris, the Special Assembly's working document, which was the point of reference during the synodal assembly. On 10 May 1997 the Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, entitled Une Esperance nouvelle pour le Liban, was published during a papal visit to Lebanon for the celebration phase of the Special Assembly.

16. Special Assembly for America

In Session: 16 November - 12 December 1997

Synod Fathers: 233

Topic: "Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America"

In the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, the Holy Father made known his desire to continue the synodal movement on the continental level, beginning with the Special Assemblies for Europe (1991) and Africa (1994), and to convene special synodal assemblies, including the Special Assembly for American, as part of the program leading to the celebration of the Jubilee Year 2000. To offer assistance to the General Secretariat in the preparation of the Special Assembly, the Holy Father appointed a Pre-Synodal Council on 12 June 1995. In the course of preparation, this Council held regular scheduled meetings at the General Secretariat. On 3 September 1996 the Lineamenta was officially released, beginning a period of reflection and prayer on the topic at all levels of Church life on the American continent. At the Fourth Meeting of the Pre-Synodal Council, 6-8 May 1997, the responses to the Lineamenta were discussed in light of drafting the Instrumentum laboris for the Special Assembly, one of the points on the agenda of the meeting, 2-4 July 1994, at which also participated those who were to exercise major roles at the Special Assembly.

17. Special Assembly for Asia

In Session: to be determined

Topic: "Jesus Christ the Savior and His Mission of Love and Service in Asia: '...That They May Have Life, and Have it Abundantly'" (Jn 10:10)

In the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, the Holy Father announced his intention to call special synodal assemblies on the continental level as part of the preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000. On 10 September 1995, the Holy Father established a Pre-Synodal Council for the Special Assembly for Asia made up primarily of cardinals, archbishops and bishops from Asia and given the task of assisting the General Secretariat in the preparation of the Special Assembly. To date, this Council has held four meetings in which the members collaborated in the various stages of preparation, particularly in the composition of the Lineamenta, which was officially released on 3 September 1996. The deadline for submission of the customary responses to this document was 1 August 1997. This material and related observations served as the basis for the Instrumentum laboris, which is in the final stages of production. The episcopal conferences in Asia are presently engaged in electing members to the synod according to the special criteria for participation approved by the Holy Father, and the entire Church on the continent offering prayers for the Special Assembly's success in the renewed pastoral endeavors of the Church in Asia.

18. Special Assembly for Oceania

In Session: to be determined

Topic: "Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth, Living His Life"

In the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, the Holy Father announced his intention to call synodal assemblies on the continental and regional level as part of the preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000. On 7 June 1996 the Holy Father appointed the Pre-Synodal Council, made up primarily of bishops from the Pacific. To date, this Council has had two meetings, the first was devoted to the drafting of the Lineamenta text, which was subsequently completed and sent to the interested parties, and the second held in Wellington (New Zealand), 26-28 August 1997, during which the criteria for participation were discussed. The criteria recently received the Holy Father's approval and have been sent to the interested parties.

The Church in Oceania is now engaged in a period of prayer and reflection on the synod topic. Unlike for other synods, the responses to the Lineamenta's questions are to be sent by all local bishops directly to the General Secretariat, and not to the episcopal conferences, which customarily summarize the bishops' responses and compose a single official response for submission. The material generated in the Lineamenta period will serve as the basis for the Instrumentum laboris, the point of reference during synodal discussion during the Special Assembly

19. Second Special Assembly for Europe

In Session: to be determined

Topic: "Jesus Christ, Alive in His Church, Source of Hope for Europe"

In the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, the Holy Father announced his intention to call synodal assemblies on the continental and regional level as part of the preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000. Notwithstanding the fact that the First Special Assembly for Europe took place in 1991, new social and cultural situations, existent on the continent in the wake of political changes in the East, have created new pastoral challenges which make particularly opportune the convocation of a Second Special Assembly for Europe. On 9 February 1997 the Holy Father appointed the Pre-Synodal Council. This Council held its First Meeting on 17-19 March 1997 at which time the synod topic was discussed. At the Second Meeting, 11-13 June 1997, a draft text of the Lineamenta was studied and examined. At present the text is in the final stages of production.

20. Tenth Ordinary General Assembly

In Session: to be determined

Topic: "The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World"

During its meeting, 4-6 November 1996, the Ninth Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat discussed the results of an extensive consultation process for possible topics for the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly and drafted various proposals for submission to the Holy Father, who subsequently announced the synod's topic. The Council subsequently met on 11-12 March 1997, so as to examine a draft text of the Lineamenta. At present, the text is being finalized, after which it will be sent to the various Church bodies and individuals which are customarily contacted for responses. The Council's next meeting is scheduled for 22-24 September 1998.

[00005-02.07] [00000] [Original text: plurilingual]

Accredited journalists will also be provided with information regarding:

  • official documents concerning the Synod of Bishops (Canon Law Code, complete text of document establishing the Synod of Bishops "Apostolica Sollicitudo", Ordo Synodi);

  • basic theological documents for the Synod of Bishops (speech by John Paul II to the Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, 30 April 1983).

NOTICES

BRIEFINGS

The first briefing for the language groups will be held on Tuesday, 18 November 1997 at approximately 13.10 p.m. after the Third General Congregation.

There follows the briefing site for each language group and the name of the Press Officer.

Italian Group

Rev. Fr. Giorgio Costantino

Journalists’ Room

Holy See Press Office

English Group

Rev. Fr. Thomas D. Williams, L.C.

John Paul II Conference Hall

Holy See Press Office

French Group

Mr. Gerald Baril

Center for the Pastoral Care of German Speaking Pilgrims

Via della Conciliazione 51

Spanish-Portuguese Group

Rev. Fr. Pedro Briseño

Sala Marconi

Vatican Radio

Piazza Pia 3

PRESS CONFERENCES

On Monday, 17 November 1997, at approximately 12.45 p.m., the first press conference will be held in the John Paul II Conference Hall of the Holy See Press Office (with simultaneous translation into Italian, English, French, Castigliano, and Portuguese), open to accredited journalists and radio and television reporters.

The names of the participants will be issued as soon as possible.

 

Return to:

- Index Bulletin Synodus Episcoporum - Special Assembly for America - 1997

- Index Holy See Press Office
 
[English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish]

 

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