XI ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
PRESENTATION BY THE
Saturday, 1 October 2005
The XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the topic The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church begins tomorrow, October 2nd, The Synod of Bishops begins with the Holy Mass, presided over by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and con-celebrated by about 350 Synodal Fathers and other participants in the Synodal Assembly. It is significant that the Synod of Bishops, whose theme is the Eucharist, begins with the celebration of the Holy Mass. With this gesture the Synodal Fathers, elected from within the Episcopate of the Catholic Church and, therefore of the people of God spread throughout the world, give praise to God the Father, who is in heaven, invoking the grace of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ, risen and present amidst His people, especially in the sacrament of the Eucharist. It is in this perspective of faith, hope and Eucharistic love that the synodal works will be carried out.
The celebration of the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops takes place on the 40th anniversary of its establishment on September 15th 1965, by the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, with motu proprio Apostolica sollicitudo. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that during the next assembly a session will be dedicated to the commemoration of such an important ecclesial event. The Synod of Bishops, one of the promising fruits of Vatican Council II, has demonstrated itself during the last four decades, to be a very worthy instrument for exercising episcopal collegiality and deepening ecclesial communions.
The nature and finality of the Synod of Bishops were clearly indicated in the aforementioned Apostolic Letter Apostolica Sollicitudo Then these characteristics were collected and expressed in legal terms in canons 342-348 of the Code of Canon Law. Perhaps it is not superfluous to recall that, in addition to strengthening the bonds of mutual union between the Bishops among themselves and with the Holy Father, Bishop of Rome, one of the aims of the Synod is to help, with their advice, the Roman Pontiff, in safeguarding and increasing faith and customs in the observance and consolidation of ecclesiastic discipline. In addition, it is the task of the Synod to study the problems concerning the activity of the Church in the world and to follow with special solicitude the missionary activity of the Church.
Since its establishment 40 years ago, the Synod of Bishops has contributed
considerably towards promoting synodality in the Catholic Church, connected to
issues of fundamental importance for the life of the community of the faithful,
which mostly correspond to the topics of the individual synodal assemblies. In
this work, the Ordinary, Extraordinary and Special Councils of the General
Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops played a special role with numerous meetings
for preparation and application, in close union with the Holy Father, Head of
the episcopal body and President of the Synod of Bishops. The privileged
expression of this synodality, characterized in its collegial dimension, was
seen during 20 synodal assemblies, of which 10 were Ordinary ones, 2
Extraordinary, and 8 Special ones. With the next XI Ordinary General Assembly,
the synodal assemblies will reach number 21. Considering the period of 40 years
of its existence, it means that a Synod of Bishops has taken place in the
Catholic Church every 19 months.
Of these 256 Synodal Fathers, 177 were elected, 39 will participate ‘ex officio’, and 40 are appointed by the Holy Father. Among these, also, there are 55 Cardinals, 8 Patriarchs, 82 Archbishops, 123 Bishops, 36 Presidents of Episcopal conferences and 12 Religious.
The Synodal Fathers come from all the continents and, in particular, 50 from Africa, 59 from America, 44 from Asia, 95 from Europe and 8 from Oceania.
Then there are also 32 Experts and 27 Auditors from the five continents. A valuable contribution towards the progress of the work is also offered by the Assistants and translators in the 6 languages of the Synod: Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, English and German.
12 Churches and ecclesial communities have been invited to send their representatives to the Synod of Bishops, of which up to now 10 have given the name of their representative. The Fraternal Delegates participate in the work; may intervene but they cannot vote. This prerogative belongs to the 256 Synodal Fathers.
In the preparation of the Synodal Assembly, a lot of work, often in a silent
and abnegated way, was done by members of the General Secretariat, a small but
dynamic and available team to whom go my most sincere thanks
The Holy Father Benedict XVI willingly approved some novelties to the synodal methodology whose aim is to make the synodal meeting more agile, more participative, and therefore more collegial.
Considering the Synod will last three and not four weeks, and the number of participants is rather high, it has been necessary to reduce the time of the interventions of the Synodal Fathers from 8 to 6 minutes, as also the number of the sessions of the Working Groups.
The Synodal Fathers are kindly invited to follow a certain order in taking the floor following the four parts of the Instrumentum laboris. This suggestion, which is already present in the Ordo Synodi, should facilitate the concentration on the reflection which will have a privileged moment during the free discussions in the Synodal Hall, at the end of the daily general congregations, that is from 6 pm to 7 pm.
To favour greater participation, the Synodal Fathers will elect 8 members to the Commission for the Message , which will be approved by the Assembly and published at the end of the work. Other 4 members will be appointed by the Holy Father.
For practical reasons, electronic voting for decisions of minor importance will be carried out ad experimentum.
The Synod Hall has been modernized, in particular, with improvements to the lighting, air conditioning and video-services.
These are some methodological innovations, which can be included well in the history of the synodal establishment. In fact, during these 40 years, the method of the synodal work has undergone various amendments oriented in the last analysis to favour deepening episcopal collegiality, by offering valid advice to the Holy Father in his role as Petrine Primate for the good of the Universal Church.
It is probable that no Synodal Assembly has ever been celebrated like the next one, in an environment of such fervent prayer and religious participation of millions of faithful, who in this Year of the Eucharist, invoke from the Lord the grace to find the One they have already encountered in the celebration of the Holy Mass, memorial of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, re-presentation of his sacrifice, as personal and communitarian sharing in the banquet of the eschatological wedding of the immolated Lamb. This environment of religious expectation and participation offers the grounded hope that the choral prayer of the Church will be received by the One and Triune God and that one can expect from the Synod of bishops, a renewed impulse in the proclamation of the Gospel, the good news for contemporary man, new evangelization centered on the Eucharistic mystery whose consequences will favour a rebirth of the life of faith, of hope, and of charity, so that those faithful, open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will commit themselves to translate with adequate charitable creativity, in many works of human promotion.