SYNOD OF BISHOPS
The Synod of Bishops was established by St Paul VI on 15th September 1965 with the Motu Proprio Apostolica Sollicitudo. Its formation took place in the context of the Second Vatican Council which, with the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium (21st November 1964), had largely concentrated on the doctrine of the episcopate, urging greater involvement of the Bishops cum et sub Petro in matters that concern the universal Church.
The Council Decree Christus Dominus (28th October, 1965) describes the newly established body as follows: «Bishops chosen from various parts of the world, in ways and manners established or to be established by the Roman pontiff, render more effective assistance to the supreme pastor of the Church in a deliberative body which will be called by the proper name of Synod of Bishops. Since it shall be acting in the name of the entire Catholic episcopate, it will at the same time show that all the bishops in hierarchical communion partake of the solicitude for the universal Church» (n. 5).
Over the years the synodal norms have undergone successive improvements, as witnessed by the various editions of the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum published in 1966, 1969, 1971 and 2006. In the meantime, the Code of Canon Law (25thJanuary 1983), canons 342-348, and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (18th October 1990), canon 46, have integrated the Synod into the universal law of the Church, specifying its nature and functioning.
Recently Pope Francis, with the Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis communio (September 15th 2018), has profoundly renewed the Synod of Bishops, inserting it within the framework of synodality as a constitutive dimension of the Church, at all levels of her existence.
In particular, the Synod is understood as a process composed of three parts: the preparatory phase, in which the consultation of the People of God on the themes indicated by the Roman Pontiff takes place; the celebratory phase, characterized by the meeting of the assembly of Bishops; and the implementation phase, in which the conclusions of the Synod, once approved by the Roman Pontiff, are accepted by the local churches.
The central phase, in which the work of discernment of the Pastors is carried out, is thus preceded and followed by phases that call into play the totality of the People of God, in the plurality of its components.
The Synod - which avails itself of a General Secretariat composed of a General Secretary, an Under-Secretary and a number of special Councils of Bishops - meets in different types of Assembly: in an Ordinary General Assembly, for matters concerning the good of the universal Church; in an Extraordinary General Assembly, for matters of urgent consideration; in a Special Assembly, for matters which mostly concern one or more specific geographical regions. Furthermore, it is also the responsibility of The Roman Pontiff to convene a Synodal Assembly in accordance with other modalities which are established by him.
RELATING TO THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
The Synod of Bishops came into existence as a result of a document motu proprio, i.e., arising from the Pope's own initiative, called Apostolica sollicitudo, 15 September 1965, of Pope Paul VI. The provisions of this apostolic letter are contained in Canons 342-348 of the Code of Canon Law and Canon 46 of the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches.
Canon 342 - The Synod of bishops is that group of bishops who have been chosen from different regions of the world and who meet at stated times to foster a closer unity between the Roman Pontiff and the bishops, to assist the Roman Pontiff with their counsel in safeguarding and increasing faith and morals and in preserving and strengthening ecclesiastical discipline, and to consider questions concerning the Church's activity in the world.
Canon 343 - It is the role of the Synod of Bishops to discuss the questions on their agenda and to express their desires about them but not to resolve them or to issue decrees about them, unless the Roman Pontiff in certain cases has endowed the Synod with deliberative power, and, in this event, it is his role to ratify its decisions.
Canon 344 - A Synod of Bishops is directly under the authority of the Roman Pontiff whose role it is to: 1) convoke a Synod as often as he deems it opportune and to designate the place where its sessions are to be held; 2) ratify the election of those members who are to be elected in accord with the norm of special law and to designate and name its other members; 3) determine topics for discussion at a suitable time before the celebration of the Synod in accord with the norm of the special law; 4) determine the agenda; 5) preside over the Synod in person or through others; and 6) conclude, transfer, suspend and dissolve the Synod.
Canon 345 - A Synod of Bishops can meet in a General Session, which deals with matters which directly concern the good of the entire Church; such a Session is either Ordinary or Extraordinary; a Synod of Bishops can also meet in a Special Session, which deals with matters which directly concern a definite region or regions.
Canon 346 - § 1. The membership of a Synod of Bishops gathered in Ordinary General Session consists of the following: for the most part, bishops elected to represent their individual groups by the Conferences of bishops in accord with the special law of the Synod; other bishops designated in virtue of this law itself; other bishops directly named by the Roman Pontiff. To this membership are added some members of clerical religious institutes elected in accord with the norm of the same special law.
§ 2. A Synod of Bishops is gathered in Extraordinary General Session to deal with matters which require a speedy solution; its membership consists of the following: most of them are bishops designated by the special law of the Synod in virtue of the office which they hold; others are bishops directly named by the Roman Pontiff. To this membership are added some members of clerical religious institutes elected in accord with the same law.
§ 3. The membership of a Synod of Bishops gathered in a Special Session consists of those who have been especially selected from the regions for which the Synod has been convoked, in accord with the norm of the special law which governs such a Synod.
Canon 347 - § 1. When a Session of a Synod of Bishops is concluded by the Roman Pontiff, the responsibility entrusted to the bishops and other members in the Synod ceases.
§ 2. If the Apostolic See becomes vacant after a Synod has been called or during its celebration the meeting of the Synod is suspended by the law itself as is the responsibility which has been entrusted to its members in connection with it; such a suspension continues until a new Pontiff decrees either that the Session be dissolved or continued.
Canon 348 - § 1. The Synod of Bishops has a permanent General Secretariat presided over by a General Secretary who is appointed by the Roman Pontiff; he is assisted by the Council of the Secretariat; this Council consists of bishops, some of whom are elected in accord with the norm of its special law by the Synod of Bishops itself while others are appointed by the Roman Pontiff; the responsibility of all these members ceases when a new General Session begins.
§ 2. Furthermore one or several Secretaries are established who are named by the Roman Pontiff for each Session of a Synod of Bishops, but they remain in the role entrusted to them only until the Session of the Synod has been completed.
Canon 46 - § 1. In exercising his office (munus) the Roman Pontiff is assisted by the bishops who aid him in various ways and among these is the Synod of Bishops; moreover the cardinals, the Roman Curia, pontifical legates and other persons and various institutes assist him according to the needs of the times; all these persons and institutes carry out the task committed to them in his name and by his authority for the good of all the Churches, according to the norm of law established by the Roman Pontiff himself.
§ 2. The participation of patriarchs and other hierarchs who preside over Churches sui iuris in the Synod of Bishops is regulated by special norms established by the Roman Pontiff.
Apostolic Letter issued motu proprio by Pope Paul VI, 15 September 1965, establishing the Synod of Bishops for the Universal Church (Acta Apostolicæ Sedis, 57 , pp. 775-780).
The Apostolic concern leading Us to carefully survey the signs of the times and to make every effort to adapt the means and methods of the holy apostolate to the changing circumstances and need of our day, impels Us to establish even closer ties with the bishops in order to strengthen Our union with them "whom the Holy Spirit has placed [...] to rule the Church of God" (Acts 20:28). We are led to this not merely by the reverence, esteem and sense of gratitude that We rightly feel towards all Our Venerable Brothers in the episcopate, but also by the very heavy responsibility that has been laid upon Us as universal Shepherd, a responsibility that obliges Us to lead the People of God to eternal pastures. For daily experience has taught Us how helpful this kind of union will be in carrying out Our apostolic Office in this age that is so upset and full of division and yet so open to the salutary inspiration of God's grace; We intend to use every means available to Us to promote and foster it. "Thus," as We have said elsewhere, "We will not lack the consolation of their presence, the help of their wisdom and experience, the support of their counsel, and the voice of their authority" (Discourse to the Council Fathers, III session; AAS 56 (1965) 1011).
Hence it is only fitting, especially during the celebration of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, that this conviction has taken firm root in Us concerning the necessity and importance of making every greater use of the bishops' assistance in providing for the good of the universal Church. It was also the Ecumenical Council that gave Us the idea of permanently establishing a special Council of bishops, with the aim of providing for a continuance after the Council of the great abundance of benefits that We have been so happy to see flow to the Christian people during the time of the Council as a result of Our close collaboration with the bishops.
Now that the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican is drawing to a close, We feel the time has come to put this decision, long since made, into effect; and We are all the more happy to do so because of Our certain knowledge that the bishops of the Catholic world are in favor of this step; this is clear from the many wishes expressed in this regard in the ecumenical Council.
And so, after carefully considering the whole matter, because of our esteem and regard for all the Catholic bishops and with the aim of providing them with abundantly means for greater and more effective participation in Our concern for the universal Church, on our own initiative and by Our apostolic authority, We hereby erect and establish here in Rome a permanent Council of bishops for the universal Church, to be directly and immediately subject to Our power. Its proper name will be the Synod of Bishops.
This Synod, which, like all human institutions, can be improved upon with the passing of time, is to be governed by the following regulations:
The Synod of Bishops, whereby bishops chosen from various parts of the world are to offer more effective assistance to the supreme Shepherd, is to be constituted in such a way that it is: a) a central ecclesiastical institution; b) representing the whole Catholic episcopate; c) of its nature perpetual; d) as for structure, carrying out its function for a time and when called upon.
The Synod of Bishops has, of its very nature, the function of providing information and offering advice. It can also enjoy the power of making decisions when such power is conferred upon it by the Roman Pontiff; in this case, it belongs to him to ratify the decisions of the Synod.
1. The general purpose of the Synod are:
2. Its special and immediate purposes are:
The Synod of Bishops is directly and immediately subject to the authority of the Roman Pontiff, whose responsibility is:
The Synod of Bishops can meet in General Session, in Extraordinary Session, and in Special Session.
The Synod of Bishops meeting in General Session will primarily, and as a general rule, be made up of:
2. The cardinals who are in charge of departments of the Roman Curia will also attend the General Sessions of the Synod of Bishops.
The Synod of Bishops in Extraordinary Session will be made up of:
2. The cardinals who are in charge of the departments of the Roman Curia will also attend the Extraordinary Sessions of the Synod of Bishops.
The Synod of Bishops meeting in Special Session will be made up of the patriarchs, major archbishops and metropolitans outside of a patriarchate of the Catholic Churches of the Eastern rite, as well as of those who represent either the episcopal Conferences of one or a number of nations or the religious institutes, as has been established in article V and article VIII, but in this case, all of them are to belong to the region for which the Synod of Bishops is being convoked.
The Bishops who will represent individual national Conferences are to be chosen in this manner:
The episcopal Conferences which take in a number of nations will choose their representatives on the same basis.
In choosing those who are to represent the episcopal Conferences of one or a number of nations and the religious institutes in the Synod of Bishops, great attention should be paid not just to the general knowledge and wisdom of individuals, but also to their theoretical and practical knowledge of the matter which the Synod is to take up.
The Supreme Pontiff may, if he so chooses, increase the number of members of the Synod of Bishops by adding bishops, or religious to represent the religious institutes, or clerics who are experts, to the extent of fifteen percent of the total number of the members mentioned in articles V and VIII.
At the conclusion of the Session for which the Synod of Bishops has been convoked, the persons making up the Synod lose their office by that very fact, and the same is true of any individual members who have had some special role or function.
The Synod of Bishops is to have a permanent General Secretary, with a suitable number of assistants assigned to him. In addition, any Session of the Synod of Bishops is to have a Special Secretary of its own who remains in office until the end of the Session.
Both the General Secretary and the Special Secretaries are to be named by the Supreme Pontiff.
We decree and establish all this, anything to the contrary notwithstanding.
Given at St. Peter's, Rome, on the fifteenth day of September, in the year 1965, the third of Our Pontificate.
Paulus PP. VI
RESCRIPT FROM THE PAPAL AUDIENCE1
Taking into account the past revisions and additions to the Order of the Synod of Bishops in 1969 and 1971, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, acceding to the counsel of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops on the opportuneness of updating the statutes contained therein to conform to the present Code of Canon Law and The Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches, gives his approval and orders its publication.
At the same time, the Supreme Pontiff directs that the present text of the Order of the Synod of Bishops be conscientiously observed by all those to whom it pertains.
Given at the Vatican, 29 September 2006.
Tarcisio Card. Bertone
* * *
As the work of the Second Vatican Council progressed, the idea arose that the Roman Pontiff utilize his union with the Bishops in a more visible and efficacious manner in carrying out his office as Supreme Pastor of the Church.2 To achieve this end, Pope Paul VI, with the Apostolic Letter Apostolica Sollicitudo (15 September 1965), instituted the Synod of Bishops,3 establishing its structure and responsibilities. References to this new institution can be found in the Decrees of the Second Vatican Council Christus Dominus, 5 and Ad Gentes, 29.
The Synod of Bishops, representing in some way the entire episcopate of the Catholic Church, expresses in a special manner the spirit of communion uniting the Bishops with the Roman Pontiff and Bishops among themselves.4 It is the privileged place where the assembly of Bishops is immediately and directly subject to the power of the Roman Pontiff,5 manifests collegial fraternity and episcopal concern for the good of the whole Church and, under the action of the Holy Spirit, offers genuine counsel on various topics related to the Church.6
The fact that the Synod ordinarily has only a consultative role does not diminish its importance. In the Church the purpose of any collegial body, whether consultative or deliberative, is always the search for truth or the good of the Church. When it is therefore a question involving the faith itself, the consensus ecclesiae is not determined by the tallying of votes, but is the outcome of the working of the Spirit, the soul of the one Church of Christ.7
The Code of Canon Law, promulgated on 25 January 1983, codified the principal elements of the structure of the Synod of Bishops,8 and, along with The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, promulgated on 18 October 1990, placed it among the bodies which, in ways corresponding to their office, cooperate with the Roman Pontiff in the exercise of his supreme authority.9
Shortly after the institution of the Synod of Bishops, the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum was promulgated on 8 December 1966 for the effective ordering of the structure and activity of the Synod of Bishops, including the procedures to be followed at its various assemblies.10The norms governing the synod were successively updated on two occasions to integrate practical elements resulting from the actual celebration of synodal assemblies.11
Likewise, to address specific needs which arose during synodal proceedings, it was necessary over the years to add further norms, such as Procedural Norms for Discussion Groups and some Explanatory Comments on certain articles of the Ordo Synodi.
Forty years of experience in celebrating synodal assemblies pointed to the urgency of another revision of the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, which included adding juridical elements from other related norms published from time to time.
The text of The Procedural Norms for Discussion Groups is found in the appendix of this present document.
The Roman Pontiff
The Power of the Roman Pontiff
§ 1. The Synod of Bishops is directly under the authority of the Roman Pontiff, who alone has the right:
§ 2. If the Apostolic See becomes vacant or impeded after the convocation of the Synod or during its celebration, the Synod is immediately suspended, until the new Pontiff establishes whether to continue it or to convoke a new assembly.
The Appointment of the President-Delegate
§ 1. The President-Delegate presides over the Assembly in the name and by the authority of the Roman Pontiff.
§ 2. The President-Delegate is appointed by the Roman Pontiff; his office ceases at the conclusion of the Assembly for which he is appointed.
§ 3. If the Roman Pontiff has delegated several persons to preside over the Assembly, they exercise their office in turns according to the order set by the Roman Pontiff.
The Responsibility of the President-Delegate
The President-Delegate is:
The Various Kinds of Synodal Assemblies
The Synod of Bishops meets:
Participants at the Synod
Members or Synod Fathers
§ 1. At an Ordinary General Assembly of a Synod the following participate:
§ 2. At an Extraordinary General Assembly the following participate:
§ 3. At a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops the following participate;
§ 4. At the individual assemblies there are also Members, Bishops or Religious from Clerical Religious Institutes or Ecclesiastics who are specialists in the material to be treated, appointed by the Supreme Pontiff, up to 15% of the total number of Members.
The Election of Members
§ 3. The names of the Bishops and Religious who are elected are not to be made known to the public until their election is ratified by the Roman Pontiff.
§4. The Synods of Bishops, the Councils of the Hierarchy of the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Episcopal Conferences and the Union of Superiors General, in reference to § 1 and § 2, are to elect one or two alternate Members or Substitutes, who, with the approval of the Roman Pontiff, will take part in the Synod in the event that the persons whose place they take, are unable to be present.
§5. At the beginning of each synodal assembly the elected Members are to present to the Roman Pontiff, through the General Secretary, the official document of their deputation signed by Head of the respective Eastern Catholic Church, the President and the Secretary of the individual conference, or, in the case of Religious, by the President and Secretary of the Union of Superiors General.Article 7
Others can also be invited to participate at the Synod in the following capacities, but without the right to vote:
Commissions of Study
The Establishment of Commissions of Study
§ 2. Unless the Roman Pontiff has decided otherwise, each commission is comprised of 12 Members, specialists on the subject, of which 8 are elected from the Assembly and 4 are appointed by the Roman Pontiff.
§ 3. With the approval of the Roman Pontiff, a Commission is also to be established, according to the preceding Article § 2, for the composition of a possible Message or another document which is to be published, after having received the approval of the Synod Fathers.
The Election of Members of the Commissions of Study
1º The election of the Members of the Commission of Study is done according to the norms set down in canon 119, 1º of The Code of Canon Law.
2º The Roman Pontiff chooses the President from among those elected or
4º The Secretary of the Commission is to be one of the Members elected by the Members themselves.
5º The Special Secretary is to take part in the Commission of Study by helping in the discussion of the subject for which the Commission was established.
The Commission for Disputes
The Constitution and Tasks of the Commission for Disputes
At the beginning of each assembly the Roman Pontiff is to establish a Commission of 3 Members with the task of examining in a due manner any disputes that have been submitted and bringing them to the Roman Pontiff.
The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops
The Constitution of the General Secretariat of the Synod
§ 1. The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution in service of the Synod, and established as a connection between the various synodal assemblies.
§ 2. The General Secretary and the Council of the Secretariat are part of the General Secretariat, each according to his task.
The Appointment of the General Secretary, His Responsibilities and Collaborators
§1. The General Secretary is appointed by the Roman Pontiff and exercises his responsibilities at the discretion of the Roman Pontiff.
§ 2. It is the responsibility of the General Secretary to carry out the directives of the Roman Pontiff and to communicate to him all matters related to the Synod of Bishops.
§ 3. The General Secretary participates as a Member in synodal assemblies. At the beginning of synodal work, he presents a Report on the preparation of the Synod, directs the operation of the General Secretariat and undersigns all its activities.
§ 4. It is equally the task of the General Secretary to prepare the work of the Council of the Secretariat and to serve as moderator at the meetings.
§ 5. The General Secretary has the further duty:
§ 6. The collaborators of the General Secretary, appointed by him with the approval of the Roman Pontiff, are subject to him.
§ 7. The same collaborators are chosen from among ecclesiastics who are properly disposed to the work through their knowledge and prudence.
§ 8. If need be, some specialists in technical matters can be enlisted by the General Secretary, with the approval of the Roman Pontiff.
The Constitution of the Council of the General Secretariat, Its Tasks and Meetings§ 1. At the end of each ordinary general synodal assembly, the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat is formed.
§ 2. The Council is comprised of 15 Members; 12 of whom are elected from the Synod, taking into account the representation of Bishops scattered throughout the world, and 3 designated by the Roman Pontiff.
§ 3. The selection of Members is done through an election which has the force of law, when, after subtracting invalid ballots, an absolute majority of votes is cast in favor of a person, or after the first ineffective balloting, the relative majority is received on a second ballot. If, however, the votes are equal, the matter proceeds according to the norms of canon 119, 1º, in The Code of Canon Law.
§ 4. The Bishops elected to the Council of the General Secretariat retain their proper office until the beginning of a new Ordinary General Assembly.
§ 5. The Council of the General Secretariat is to give assistance to the General Secretary:
§ 6. The Members of the Council of the General Secretariat are convoked by the General Secretary twice a year and in addition, as often as, subject to the judgment of the Roman Pontiff, it will seem opportune.
§ 7. Analogous to Ordinary General Assemblies, Special Councils of the General Secretariat are formed at the conclusion of a Special Assembly for a period of five years, after which the Roman Pontiff is to decide whether to abolish the Council, re-confirm it or substitute Members.
The General Relator and The Special Secretary
The Appointment of the General Relator and Special Secretary
§ 1. The General Relator is appointed by the Roman Pontiff for each assembly.
§ 3. If the subjects are different, a Special Secretary is appointed for each of them.
§ 4. If a case warrants it, some assistants to the Special Secretary are appointed by the Roman Pontiff, according to the norms in Article 7, 11.
§ 5. With the dissolution of the Assembly the office of the General Relator and the Special Secretary ceases.
The Task of the General Relator and the Special Secretary
§ 1. The General Relator has the task of:
§ 2. The Special Secretary has the task of:
§ 3. The Special Secretary is at the disposal of the President-Delegate, the General Relator and the General Secretary; for preparing documents and reports, for providing information briefings and explanations in response to requests; and finally, for helping to draw up the Acts.
§ 4. In the discussion of the topic, it is permissible for each Synod Father, with the approval of the President-Delegate and in conformity with the order established by him, to seek explanations and information, from both the General Relator and, above all, the Special Secretary.
Information on the Synod
The Commission for Information on the Synod§ 1. To provide information on the sessions and work of the Synod, a special commission is to be established, made up of the following Members: the President and Vice-President, appointed by the Roman Pontiff, the General Secretary of the Synod, the Special Secretary of the Synod, the President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, and five Synod Fathers designated by the President-Delegate, according to a list of candidates proposed by the President of the Commission.
§ 2. The Secretary of the Commission is to be the Director of the Holy See Press Office.
§ 3. It is the task of the Commission, with the approval of the President-Delegate, to establish the criteria and manner of supplying information.
§ 4. Likewise, press conferences on individual subjects are to be given to journalists by Synod Fathers, designated by the President of the Commission, with the approval of the President-Delegate.
The Convocation of the Synod of Bishops
The Procedure for Convoking the Synod
§ 1. The Synod of Bishops is convoked by the Roman Pontiff at opportune times and ways.
§ 2. It is the task of the President-Delegate to indicate the day and hour of each successive congregation and the material for treatment according to the pre-established order.
§ 3. The convocation of individuals is to take place only when the President-Delegate will have judged it necessary.
Attire to be Worn at the Assembly
During the sessions of the assembly, the Members, to whom it pertains, are to wear the cassock consistent with their office; others are to wear their proper habit and public attire.
The Order of Precedence
§ 1. For establishing precedence, the prescriptions of the canons and custom are to be observed.
§ 2. If one of the Members sits out of the order of precedence, and, in this place, gives an opinion or acts, he does not acquire any right nor prejudice anyone by so doing.
The Observance of Secrecy
The Obligation of SecrecyExcept for the prescription of Article 16, all those who participate in the Synod are bound to secrecy as regards both the preparation and the actual work of the assembly, above all as regards the opinions and votes of individuals, and also the decisions and conclusions of the assembly.
The Language of the Synod
The Language to be Used in the Assembly and the Acts
The Latin language is to be used in the sessions of the Synod and in the drafting of the Acts. The President-Delegate can authorize the use of other languages.
The Collection and Distribution of the Acts and Documents
The Manner of Collecting and Distributing the Acts and Documents
§ 1. All the Acts and documents are collected and distributed through the General Secretary.
§ 2. The subjects which ought to be treated in the synodal assembly are communicated before the beginning of the assembly, so as to provide time for the convocation of the concerned bodies to consult their Members.
The Opinions of the Bodies Concerned
The Manner of Seeking Opinions
§ 1. It is necessary that the subjects for discussion, determined by the Roman Pontiff in convoking the Synod, be attentively studied before-hand by the Synods of Bishops, by the Councils of the Hierarchy of the Eastern Catholic Churches, by each Episcopal Conference, by the Departments of the Roman Curia and by the Union of Superiors General.
§ 2. In treating these subjects, each Episcopal Conference expresses its common opinion, according to a manner judged most opportune.
§ 3. This opinion is expressed in the assembly of the Synod by individual Members designated for the Synod.
§ 4. The consensus of the Synod Fathers, at the conclusion of synodal debate, is expressed in Proposals (Propositiones) or in other documents, submitted to vote and then offered to the Roman Pontiff as the conclusions of the Synod.
The Voting Procedure
After the Members have expressed the opinion mentioned in Article 23, § 3, if the Roman Pontiff shall have so determined, voting will take place.
The Formula and Manner of Voting
§ 1. In the Synod, voting is expressed using the formula: placet, non placet, placet iuxta modum, if voting is for the approval of a schema, either in whole or in part; the formula placet or non placet is used for approval of emendments and other voting.
§ 2. The one who votes according to the formula, placet iuxta modum is bound to present the emendment (modum) in writing, in a clear and concise manner.
§ 3. The votes are expressed on specially printed ballots, unless the President-Delegate decides otherwise, for example, by standing or a show of hands.
§ 1. To arrive at the majority of votes, if the vote is for the approval of some item, 2/3 of the votes of the Members casting ballots is required; if for the rejection of some item, the absolute majority of the same Members is necessary.
§ 2. What is prescribed in § 1 is applies both in the case of a proposal intended for the Roman Pontiff, as well as for discussions, after having obtained the consent of the Roman Pontiff himself.
§ 3. Questions of procedure are resolved each time by an absolute majority of the voting Members.
The Obligation to Notify AbsenceWhoever is not able to attend a session must make the reason for his absence known to the President-Delegate through the General Secretary.
The Dispensation from the Residency Requirement
All those who are bound to be present at the Synod or in whatever capacity they legitimately lend their work, during the length of the assembly and as long as they are present and working, are excused from their residency requirement and are to receive income according to their customary office.
The Opening and the Closing of the Assembly
§ 1. The synodal assembly is opened with the celebration of Mass and the Hymn, Veni, Creator Spiritus.
§ 2. In the same manner, the assembly is closed with the celebration of Mass and the Hymn, Te Deum.
The President-Delegate’s Assuming Office
The Manner of Assuming Office
At the opening of the session of the synodal assembly, the General Secretary, if it is necessary, will read the papal document appointing the President-Delegate, after which he immediately assumes his office.
The Presentations of the General Relator
The Introductory Presentation (Relatio ante disceptationem)
§ 1. The Introductory Presentation, setting forth and developing the material to be treated at the synod and specifying points for discussion, is prepared by the General Relator, who is entrusted with this office by the Roman Pontiff at the time of the convocation of each synodal assembly.
§ 2. The General Relator is assisted by the Special Secretary.
§ 3. The text of the Introductory Presentation to be given at the synod is to be submitted at least 30 days before the opening date of the synod to the General Secretary, who then prepares copies for the Members.
The Concluding Presentation (Relatio post disceptationem)At the conclusion of the Synod Father’s interventions, the General Relator, taking subjects touched upon in the Synod Hall, presents a summary of the discussion called the Concluding Presentation, proposing points for possible discussion in the Small Groups (Circuli Minores) or in another manner.
The Procedure of the Synodal Assembly
The Presentation of the Topic
The President-Delegate announces the topic for discussion and calls on the General Relator who summarily gives his Presentation, previously prepared and distributed to the Synod Fathers, using the help, if necessary, of the Special Secretary.
The Discussion of the Topic
§ 4. With the assent of the Roman Pontiff, a open discussion by the Synod Fathers can take place at determined times, in a manner established by the General Secretary in conjunction with the President-Delegate.
§ 5. It is the responsibility of the President-Delegate to propose to the Synod Fathers, assembled in the synod hall, the end of discussion, in which case the determination is reached by a majority of votes.
After the interventions of the Synod Fathers, the President-Delegate, if he judges it opportune, can move the treatment of the topic to Small Groups, which are to follow the Procedural Norms included in these Statutes. In these groups, designated according to the language spoken, the Synod Fathers elect a Moderator and a Relator. At the end of the discussion of the topic, the Synod Fathers assign to the Relator the task of speaking in their name in the general congregation.
§ 1. If any Synod Father, after having listened to the opinions of others, wishes to respond or disagree with anything, he can request such permission from the President-Delegate.
§ 2. The President-Delegate has the authority to grant permission to respond and to set a day on which the response is to be given.
§ 3. On the appointed day, the President-Delegate, according to a list prepared by the General Secretary, calls upon the Synod Fathers who have requested to make a response.
§ 4. If the President-Delegate has not defined the length of the responses, the individual speakers are to limit their responses to a very brief comment.
§ 5. The speakers can make a response in the name of a group of Members; in such case, they ought to indicate in whose name they are speaking.
§ 6. The responses must be submitted in writing to the General Secretary.
§ 1. If it becomes obvious after the intervening discussions that a topic needs further development, the President-Delegate, with the consent of the Roman Pontiff, and in a manner determined by him, according to Article 8, can establish a special commission for this purpose.
§ 2. In the meantime the examination of other topics proceeds.
§ 1. After the discussion, the individual participants express their judgment on the opinions of Article 23, § 2, with a written opinion to be submitted to the General Secretary.
§ 2. If the Roman Pontiff wishes a vote is to be taken, it is done according to the norms of Articles 24-26.
The Examination and Voting on the Proposals and Documents
§ 1. The General Relator, the Special Secretary and the General Secretary, after considering the emendments, oversee the composition and printing of the Proposals or other possible documents.
§ 2. At an established time, the Synod Fathers, after having the reading of the texts, proceed to vote on them.
§ 3. Voting is done with the formula: placet or non placet.
§ 4. After the vote, the Proposals or other documents are submitted to the Roman Pontiff, according to Article 23, § 4.
The Final Report
The Preparation of the Report
At the end of the work of the Assembly, the General Secretary prepares a Report (Relatio circa Labores Peractos) which describes the treatment of the topic or topics examined and the conclusions reached by the Synod Fathers.
The Submission of the Report to the Roman Pontiff
The report referred to in Article 40 is submitted to the Roman Pontiff by the General Secretary.
The Nature, Purpose and Composition of the Small Groups
In the course of synod discussion, the President-Delegate relegates certain questions, indicated in his Concluding Presentation, for a more in-depth treatment to the Small Groups which are formed according to the various spoken languages (cf. Article 35, Order of the Synod). Each Synod Father is to participate in a group which is assigned according to the individual’s choice of language. All groups are to treat the same topics.
The goal of these Small Groups is to provide the Synod Fathers with the opportunity of expressing their opinions and comparing them with others so as to arrive at the point where together they can distinguish opposing views. The comparing of ideas should lead to a greater possible accord or even -it is hoped- to a general consensus, while always bearing in mind opposing or diverse opinions.
The Synod Fathers are to be divided into Small Groups according to the following languages: Latin, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish together with Portuguese. If too many Synod Fathers ask to be included in the same group, that group can be further divided into two or more groups of the same language. The division into groups is to be done in the usual manner according to the alphabetical order found in the list of names of the Synod Fathers.
The Order in Small Groups and the Discussion of Topics
§ 1. The Moderator of each group is to be one of the Synod Fathers of that group. He is to be elected at the beginning of the first session by the Members of the same group, in a secret vote (cf. C.I.C., canon 172; C.C.E.O., canon 954), cast on a ballot, by a relative majority.
§ 2. The Moderator’s responsibility in each group is:
§ 1. The Relator of each Small Group is to be one of the Synod Fathers of that group. He is elected by the Members of the same group, by secret vote (cf. C.I.C., canon 172; C.C.E.O., canon 954), cast on a ballot, by a relative majority. The election is to take place at the beginning of the first session.
§ 2. The Relator in each group is:
§ 1. The Secretary of each group is to be an assistant of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.
§ 2. The Secretary’s responsibility in each group is:
The Presentation of the Group-Reports in the General Congregation
At a time established by the President-Delegate, the Relators, in the name of all the Members of their groups, presents in General Congregation the Report referred to in Article 5, § 2.
When the presentation of the Reports of the Small Groups in the General Congregation is concluded, according to Article 36 (Order of the Synod of Bishops), permission to respond can be given to the Synod Fathers who might wish to add to, change or explain what has been said in the Reports.
After the Presentations in the General Congregation, the President-Delegate, according to Article 34 of the Order of the Synod of Bishops, initiates a discussion in the synod hall on the proposals of the Small Groups.
1. During your last meeting of the Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, during which you drafted the lines of the Instrumentum laboris ("working paper"), you wanted to propose a Special Session to be dedicated particularly to the internal problems of this young though already well-experienced ecclesial institution. You took upon yourself a labour supplementary to the ordinary work. And now you are about to bring it to conclusion. I thank you all from my heart, and along with you I thank the officials of the Secretariat and the experts who with their thorough studies have provided a wide basis for your reflection on the function and functioning of the Synod of Bishops.
This meeting of yours has been like the pause of a worker who, after finishing a part of the task, stops for a moment to reconsider the motives which inspired him and to summon up his courage to face the rest of the work to be done. The Synod of Bishops sprang up in the fertile terrain of the Second Vatican Council, was able to see the sun thanks to the sensitive mind of my predecessor, Paul VI, and began to bear its fruits right from the first Ordinary Assembly in 1967, held in the same hall where we are now. Since that time, meeting at the regular intervals, but also sometimes trying another type of meeting, the Synod of Bishops has contributed in a most noteworthy manner to the implementation of the teachings and the doctrinal and pastoral directives of the Second Vatican Council in the life of the universal church. The synodal key to reading the Council has become as it were a place for interpretation, application and development of the Second Vatican Council. The rich list of subjects treated in the various Synods alone reveals the importance of its meetings for the Church and for the implementation of the reforms intended by the Council.
In the face of this wealth of fruits already produced and of potential not yet realized by the still young synodal institution, it is right above all to give thanks to God because he willed to inspire its foundation and to guide its work. But it is also right, at a distance of these years, to pause in a reflection based on the experience acquired.
2. The Synod of Bishops has therefore rendered great service to the Second Vatican Council and can render still more in the application and development of the Council's directives. The experience of the post-conciliar period shows clearly in what noteworthy measure the synodal activity can set the pace for the pastoral life of the universal Church.
In the synodal meetings, the individual local Churches of every continent are represented by their respective pastoral delegates. Already during the preparatory stage they are consulted and their experience of the life of faith is then brought to the meeting by the bishops. During the meeting, an exchange of information and suggestions takes place; and in the light of the Gospel and of the Church's doctrine common directives are set out which, once sealed with the approval of the Successor of St. Peter, flow back to the benefit of the same local Churches so that the entire Church may preserve communion in the plurality of cultures and situations. In this way, the Synod of Bishops is also a magnificent confirmation of the Church's reality in which the episcopal college, "insofar as it is composed of many, expresses the variety and universality of the People of God, but insofar as it is assembled under one head, it expresses the unity of the flock of Christ" (Lumen gentium, 22).
Certainly, the Synod is the instrument of collegiality and a powerful factor in communion in a measure different from an Ecumenical Council. However, it is always a question of an effective, flexible, timely and punctual instrument at the service of all the local Churches and their reciprocal communion. This aim, which always accompanies this "special permanent Council of holy pastors", has always been present in it since its institution. As Paul VI said in his Apostolic Letter Apostolica sollicitudo, "that even after the Council there may continue to reach the Christian people that great abundance of benefits which during the Council happily came from our close union with the bishops".
For the Synod to be able to yield these benefits ever more, much depends on the concrete application which is given to the conclusions reached by the Synod, under the guidance of the pastors and the episcopal Conferences, in the individual local Churches. This post-Synod phase therefore requires much attention and particular care.
3. The dynamic force of the Synod of Bishops is rooted - as you have well emphasized - in the proper understanding and in the life of the collegiality of the bishops. In fact, the Synod is a particularly fruitful expression and the very valuable instrument of episcopal collegiality, that is, of the particular responsibility of the bishops around the Bishop of Rome.
The Synod is a way of expressing the collegiality of the bishops. All the bishops of the Church, of the episcopate with the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter,. "the perpetual and visible source and foundation of ... unity" (Lumen gentium, 23) at their head, form the college which succeeds the apostolic one with Peter as the head. The solidarity which binds them and the concern for the entire Church are manifested to the highest degree when all the bishops are gathered cum Petro et sub Petro ("with Peter and under Peter") in the Ecumenical Council. Obviously, there exists a qualitative difference between the Council and the Synod, but notwithstanding that, the Synod expresses collegiality in a highly intense way, even while it does not equal that achieved by the Council.
This collegiality is manifested principally in the collegial way the pastors of the local Churches express themselves. When, especially after a good community preparation in their own Churches and a collegial one in their episcopal Conferences, with the responsibility of their own particular Churches, but along with concern for the entire Church, they together attest to the faith and the life of faith, their vote, if morally unanimous, has a qualitative ecclesial weight which surpasses the merely formal aspect of the consultative vote.
The vitality of a Synod depends, in fact, on the thoroughness of its preparation at the level of the ecclesial communities and of the episcopal Conferences; the better the collegiality among the bishops which expresses communion in the individual Churches functions in the concrete, the richer the contribution can be which they bring to the synodal Assembly. The exercise of collegiality by the pastors at the Synod becomes a mutual exchange which also serves the communion of the bishops and the faithful and finally, the ever deeper and more organic unity of the Church. The Synod is therefore at the service of the ecclesial communion which is nothing but the very unity of the Church in its dynamic dimension.
All the elements find their place and their function in the mystery of the Church. And so the function of the Bishop of Rome places him deeply in the body of bishops as centre and fulcrum of episcopal communion; his primacy, which is a service for the benefit of the whole Church, places him in a relationship of union and closer collaboration. The Synod itself makes the intimate connection between collegiality and primacy stand out: the task of the Successor of Peter is also service to the collegiality of the bishops, and conversely the effective and affective collegiality of the bishops is an important aid to the primatial Petrine service.
4. As every human institution, the Synod of Bishops also is growing and will be able to grow and to develop its potential even more, as moreover my predecessor foresaw in his Letter Apostolica sollicitudo. Some synodal forms, although having been earlier planned, have not yet been adequately realized. You yourselves have examined various procedural and methodological possibilities and various proposals put forward during the course of this institute's existence. For my part, you may be sure of my highest consideration for the function of the Synod of Bishops in the Church and of the complete confidence I place in its activity at the service of the universal Church.
And it is in this context that I renew my appreciation and gratitude for your efforts, invoking upon your work the blessing of God and the protection of the Mother of the Church.
(L'Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 23 May 1983, p. 5)
6. I turn again now to the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, to thank him for the address he gave me a few moments ago in the name of all present. He is also the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and in this role he carries out generous work for the good of the Church, for this too I offer him my sincere gratitude. The Congregation for Bishops, in conformity with tradition, deals with questions concerning the individual Dioceses, their territorial structure, the appointment of Bishops and various points connected with their resignations.
At this point the functioning of various collegial groups of Episcopates on all continents should be mentioned, for example, the Lain American Episcopal Council (C.E.L.Am.), the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (C.C.E.E.), the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (S.E.C.A.M.) and the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (F.A.B.C.).
In recent years the Synod movement has widely expanded in the Church. Information has been received about the holding of diocesan, provincial or national Synods. However, continental Synods deserve special attention. Such was the Synod of Bishops for Europe, for example, and later the Synod of Bishops for Africa, which ended 8 May last. Such too will be the Synod for Lebanon, which in a certain sense is presented as a Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. In view of the year 2000, a Synod of Bishops for the two Americas, North and South, is foreseen as well as, God willing of course, a Synod for Asia and the Far East. Here my grateful thoughts turn to Archbishop Jan Schotte, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, for his generous service to the synodal dimension of the Church’s life.
(L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 22 June 1994, pp.6-7)
So as 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 method of work alternates between analysis and synthesis, in consulting interested parties and decisions being made by competent authorities, according to a dynamic of feed-back which permits the continual verification of results and the making 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 is the result of collegiality. The first official step in the process is to consult the patriarchates, bishops' Conferences, department heads of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General for suggestions on possible topics for a Synod. Recently, in Ordinary General Assemblies this consultation has been anticipated by an informal solicitation of the Synod Fathers in the closing days of the synodal Assembly for their preference in the matter. However, in both cases the bishops are asked to keep in mind the following criteria:
The suggestions on a topic–which must be include reasons for the choice–are classified, analyzed and studied during a meeting of the Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. Afterwards, the Council submits the meeting's results, 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 developing and presenting 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 Church's episcopate for the purpose of generating at the local level study, discussion and prayer concerning the Synod topic.
The Lineamenta from the Latin word meaning "outline" is by its nature very broad in scope and is meant to elicit a broad range of observations and reactions. Though the first and 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 or official response to the questions proposed in the document, which is then sent to the General Secretariat by a certain date.
After 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 be the object of discussion during the Synod. The document is not a draft of the final conclusions but only a text which aims at helping to focus discussion on the Synod topic. After subsequent submission and approval by the Holy Father the document is translated into the major languages and sent to the bishops and those members who will participate in the General Assembly. At times, the Holy Father has granted permission for the text to be made public so as to 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 synodal Assembly.
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 synodal Assembly the experiences and aspirations of each community as well as the fruit of the preliminary discussions of the episcopal Conferences.
Three phases characterize the Synod's working sessions:
At the end of a synodal Assembly, 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 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 tradendæ, Familiaris consortio, Reconciliatio et pænitentia, 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, is having good results in fostering reflection and pastoral initiatives on this continent. In May, 1997, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation for the Special Assembly for Lebanon (1995), Une espérance nouvelle pour le Liban, was published during a papal trip to Lebanon as part of the celebration phase of the Special Assembly. On 23 January 1999 the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America was promulgated by the Holy Father in Mexico at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On 6 November 1999 the Post-Synodal Exhortation for Asia Ecclesia in Asia was signed by the Holy Father in Delhi, India. Since, for health reasons, the Holy Father was unable to travel to Oceania, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania was published on 22 November 2001 in a ceremony in which the Holy Father electronically sent the document to all the particular Churches in Oceania, thus making it the first pontifical document to be transmitted over the internet. On 28 June 2003, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa was signed by the Holy Father at a Vespers service in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Since the 1987 Synod, the various Councils of the General Secretariat and the General Secretary have been collegially involved in the process leading to the publication of the Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, the papal document coming from the Synod. It is interesting to note the history and development of these Councils.
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 an Ordinary General Assembly).
Since that time the Ordinary Councils of the General Secretariat, elected from each Synod in light of preparation for the following one, have become a permanent feature of the General Secretariat:
With the advent of continental or regional synodal Assemblies, the Holy Father chose to form during the Special Assemblies post-synodal Councils through election and papal appointment. As a result, in addition to the Ordinary Council, the General Secretariat has in existence the following Post-synodal Councils from their date of institution:
Similarly, in the preparation of a Special Assembly the Holy Father appointed a group of bishops, primarily from the continent and region under consideration, to form pre-synodal Councils. These Councils endured from the date of appointment until the first day of the synodal Assembly. Therefore, the following is a listing of past Pre-synodal Councils along with their dates of existence:
As can be observed, the 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 can be said that the Synod works as a collegial body through which, in 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, from the Holy Father, who is the principle of unity in the Church, return to the particular Churches as the oxygenated blood returns to arteries to vivify the human body.
So that this collegiality can fully realize its potential, it is necessary that a selfless spirit of collaboration 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 is 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 during a synodal Assembly.
(updated: May 2004)
1. The First Ordinary General Assembly
In Session: 29 September - 29 October 1967
Topic: The Preservation and Strengthening of the Catholic Faith, its Integrity, its Force, its Development and its Doctrinal and Historical Coherence.
Pope Paul VI stated the goals for the 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, in light of the rise of atheism, a crisis in faith and erroneous theological opinions in the world, 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. Subsequently, Pope Paul VI, in 1969, established the International Theological Commission.
The Synod also called for the revision of the Code of Canon Law of 1917 in an attempt to make it more pastoral and more contemporary in tone and emphasis. Initially begun by Pope Paul VI, the work was brought to completion under Pope John Paul II with the promulgation, in 1983, of the Revised Code of Canon Law.
The greater role of episcopal Conferences in the renewal of seminaries and in priestly formation was discussed and proposals submitted to the Pope. Certain procedures relating to mixed marriages, recommended by the Assembly, were approved by the Pope in 1970, and various aspects of liturgical reform were treated, many of which were implemented when the New Order of the Mass was put into effect in 1969.
Synod Fathers: 197
2. The First Extraordinary General Assembly (cf. Canon 346)
In Session: 11 October - 28 October 1969
Topic: The Cooperation between the Holy See and Episcopal Conferences
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. The practical results of this gathering opened the door to wider participation of 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 ordinary Synods meet at regular intervals--every two years (subsequently changed to an interval determined by the Holy Father which in effect has been 'every 3 or 4 years'); 2) that the General Secretariat operate between synodal Sessions and organize these meetings; and 3) that the bishops be permitted to suggest topics for the future Assemblies.
Synod Fathers: 146
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. This Council, first having met 12-15 May 1970, was intended to facilitate communication with episcopal Conferences and offer assistance in the formulation of the agenda for the subsequent Ordinary General Assembly. After this meeting, a general consultation of the bishops worldwide was begun for suggested topics for future Assemblies (Such a consultation now begins in the final days of any given Ordinary General 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
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.
Synod Fathers: 210
4. The Third Ordinary General Assembly
In Session: 27 September - 26 October 1974
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 this context, the then-popular issue of “liberation” was linked to the work of evangelization in seeking to free peoples and individuals from sin. The bishops' recommendations and proposals submitted to the Pope were used in the formulation of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi.
Synod Fathers: 209
5. The Fourth Ordinary General Assembly
In Session: 30 September - 29 October 1977
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 A Message to the People of God, in which the bishops pointed out that Christ is the center of salvation and, therefore, of 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 tradendæ, which utilized a great many of the bishops' proposals and insights.
Synod Fathers: 204
6.The Special Assembly for the Netherlands
In Session: 14 - 31 January 1980
Topic: The Pastoral Situation in the Netherlands
The then-designated “Particular Synod for the Netherlands” or "Dutch Synod" as it was popularly known, is, according to the revised Code of Canon Law (cf. canon 345), subsequently promulgated in 1983, the first Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. This synodal gathering, held in Rome, treated the Vatican II concept of the 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, the consecrated 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 Council, instituted at the end of this synodal Assembly, regularly met with the General Secretary to assess the pastoral situation and to promote the implementation of the Synod resolutions. Though technically still in existence, this Council has not had a meeting since 10-11 November 1995.
Synod Fathers: 19
7. The Fifth Ordinary General Assembly
In Session: 26 September - 25 October 1980
Topic: The Christian Family
A reaffirmation of the Church's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the contents of the encyclical Humanæ vitæ 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 this synodal Assembly the Pope issued the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio.
Synod Fathers: 216
8. The Sixth Ordinary General Assembly
In Session: 29 September - 29 October 1983
Topic: Penance and Reconciliation in the Mission of the Church
The synodal 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 towards the sinner." The bishops' work during the Synod served as the basis for the Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et pænitentia which for the first time was designated as a "Post Synodal" document.
Synod Fathers: 221
9. The Second Extraordinary General Assembly
In Session: 24 November - 8 December 1985
Topic: The Twentieth Anniversary of the Conclusion of the Second Vatican Council
Specially convened by Pope John Paul II (cf. canon 345), the purpose of this synodal Assembly was to commemorate the occurrence of the Second Vatican Council and to assess the state of Church renewal in this regard. According to statute, this Synod brought together all the Presidents of the over 100 episcopal Conferences worldwide and various other persons (cf. canon 346). 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 Nuntius or "Message to the People of God". Responding to the proposal from the Synod Fathers at this Assembly, the Holy Father authorized the compilation and publication of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, released in 1992. At the same time, it “...called for a fuller and more profound study of the theological and, consequently, the juridical status of episcopal Conferences, and above all of the issue of their doctrinal authority, in light of no. 38 of the conciliar Decree Christus Dominus and canons 447 and 753 of the Code of Canon Law (Final Report, II, C, 8, b),” which was addressed in John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio on the Theological and Juridical Nature of Episcopal Conferences (21 May 1998), 7.
Synod Fathers: 165
10. The Seventh Ordinary General Assembly
In Session: 1 - 30 October 1987
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, in their sharing or communion in holiness, and in the Church’s work of evangelization in the world, in virtue of their secular character. Because of the topic, this Synod witnessed a significant presence of laypersons as auditors, who were called upon to address the General Assembly and share insights in the small groups. For the first time, a lay woman and man were appointed as Adjunct Special Secretaries. The information resulting from this Synod, particularly the 54 propositions of the General Assembly, were used in the formulation of the Pope John Paul II’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici.
Synod Fathers: 232
11. The Eighth Ordinary General Assembly
In Session: 30 September - 28 October 1990
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 of Bishops (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 conclusion of the synodal Assembly, 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 Pastores dabo vobis.
On 25 October, during the 28th Congregation, His Excellency, Most Rev. Emilio Eid, Bishop of Sarepta of the Maronites and Vice-President of the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches gave a presentation on the revised Code and distributed a copy to the Synod Fathers and other participants.
Synod Fathers: 238
12. The Special Assembly for Europe
In Session: 28 November - 14 December 1991
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 given moment created by the great changes 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 procedure, 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 to give substantial representation to the 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 Declaratio or “Statement” 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 work group was appointed to devise ways of implementing the conclusions of the Declaratio through a revision of the statutes of the Concilium Conferentiarum Episcopalium Europæ (C.C.E.E.) in light of the present circumstances.
Synod Fathers: 137
13. Special Assembly for Africa
In Session: 10 April - 8 May 1994
Topic: The Church in Africa and Her Evangelising 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 this Special Assembly and the appointment of a pre-preparatory commission made up primarily of members of the African episcopate. The following June, this group, expanded to constitute the Council of the General Secretariat, was entrusted with helping prepare the synodal Assembly. The Lineamenta, "outlining" the Synod topic, was published during the meeting of representatives of the African episcopate in Lomé, Togo, July, 1990, thereby 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 in 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 Evangelisation 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 Eucharistic liturgies 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 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 at the Special Assembly, continues to offer assistance to the General Secretariat. Its task is to monitor the impact and implementation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation at the level of the local Church. The Council compiled a report which was sent to all the bishops in Africa, the heads of the departments of the Roman Curia, and the Presidents of episcopal Conferences worldwide as well as other interested parties. This Council meets periodically to assess the situation so as to update and encourage the bishops of Africa in the application of the document’s rich contents.
On 13 November 2004, during the Symposium of the Bishops of Africa and Europe, held in Rome, Pope John Paul II, “welcoming the aspirations of the Post-Synodal Council”, made the announcement to convoke a Second Special Assembly for Africa in response to the “the hopes of the African pastors”. In the General Audience of 22 June 2005, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed this decision “made by my venerated predecessor”. No specific dates or topic for the Second Special Assembly have been announced.
Synod Fathers: 242
14. The Ninth Ordinary General Assembly
In Session: 2 - 29 October 1994
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 consider the topic of the consecrated life. Some saw it as a logical progression in 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.
Synod Fathers: 245
15. Special Assembly for Lebanon
In Session: 26 November - 14 December 1995
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 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 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 1994. The responses to the Lineamenta were incorporated in the Instrumentum laboris, the Special Assembly's “working document”, which served as the point of reference in the discussions during the synodal Assembly. On 12 December, an annotated version of the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches, published under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, was distributed to the Synod Fathers.
On 10 May 1997, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, entitled Une espérance nouvelle pour le Liban, was published during a papal visit to Lebanon for the celebration phase of the Special Assembly. An Arab translation of the document, prepared by the Assembly of Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon (A.P.E.C.L.), was subsequently published in 1998. The Post-Synodal Council, resulting from this Special Assembly, continues to hold meetings to evaluate the impact and implementation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation in Lebanon. In this regard, a report was prepared and mailed in 2003 to the hierarchy of Lebanon, the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the Patriarchs, Major Archbishops and Metropolitans of the Eastern Churches sui iuris, the Presidents of the episcopal Conferences worldwide and other interested parties. The Special Council continues to meet periodically to assess the situation in Lebanon.
Synod Fathers: 69
16. Special Assembly for America
In Session: 16 November - 12 December 1997
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 America, as part of the program leading to the celebration of the Jubilee Year 2000. On 12 June 1995, a Pre-Synodal Council was appointed to collaborate in the preparations of the Special Assembly. With its assistance, the Lineamenta was published on 3 September 1996 and the Instrumentum laboris on 10 September 1997.
During the Assembly, the Synod Fathers took into consideration the various features of Church life and society on the American continent and sought the best ways and means of allowing the people of America to encounter Jesus Christ. In this regard, they discussed the relation between the Gospel and culture and the main concepts of conversion, communion and solidarity in meeting the great challenges of contemporary society on the continent. At the conclusion of the Special Assembly the Synod Fathers published the customary Nuntius or “Message to the People of God.”
A Post-Synodal Council, elected during the Assembly, met on various occasions to evaluate the results of the Synod and to offer assistance to the Holy Father in drafting the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, which was promulgated by the Holy Father, 23 January 1999, during the celebration phase of the Special Assembly in Mexico City, Mexico. Many synodal participants from all parts of the continent were present for the Eucharistic Liturgy celebrated in the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe for this occasion.
Subsequently, the Post-Synodal Council met at various times to evaluate the implementation of the document and to offer encouragement to the bishops in their initiatives on the continent in response to the post-synodal document. In 2002, a report in this matter was prepared and sent to each member of the hierarchy in America, the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the Patriarchs, Major Archbishops and Metropolitans of the Eastern Churches sui iuris, the Presidents of the episcopal Conferences worldwide and other interested parties. The Special Council meets periodically to continue to discuss the priority issues on the continent set forth in the report.
Synod Fathers: 233
17. Special Assembly for Asia
In Session: 19 April - 14 May 1998
Topic: Jesus Christ the Saviour 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 preparatory program leading to the Jubilee Year 2000. On 10 September 1995, the Holy Father established the Pre-Synodal Council for the Special Assembly for Asia made up primarily of cardinals, archbishops and bishops from Asia. Part of their task was to assist the General Secretariat in drafting the Lineamenta which was released on 3 September 1996 and the Instrumentum laboris published on 13 February 1998.
During the Special Assembly, the Synod Fathers, keeping in mind that the Church is a small but vibrant flock on a Asian continent where the Great Religions of the World are present, focused their attention on the uniqueness of the person of Jesus as Saviour and his gift of abundant life in the context of the Church’s program of a new evangelization. Of particular concern was how the Church, in a concrete pastoral plan, can continue the Lord’s mission of love and service in Asia. At the conclusion, the Synod Fathers published a Nuntius or Message to the People of God which treated various points of the Synod theme.
A Post-Synodal Council resulted from the synodal Assembly. Subsequently having met at various intervals in the wake of the Assembly, this Council offered assistance in analyzing the Special Assembly’s recommendations and contributed to the drafting of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, which was signed by the Holy Father on 6 November 1999, in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, during the synod’s celebration phase, 5-8 November 1999, in New Delhi (India). Since that time, the Council has met periodically to evaluate the distribution and implementation of the document in the Church in Asia. In 2002, a report was prepared and mailed to each member of the hierarchy on the Asian continent, the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the Patriarchs, Major Archbishops and Metropolitans of the Eastern Churches sui iuris, the Presidents of the episcopal Conferences worldwide and other interested parties. At its last meeting in November, 2004, the Special Council shared further reaction to the Post-Synodal document, evaluated the significance of the Special Assembly on the Asian continent, related the present state of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue in various countries and spoke of published works recounting the lives of saints and blesseds from Asia.
Synod Fathers: 191
18. Special Assembly for Oceania
In Session: 22 November - 12 December 1998
Topic: Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth, Living His Life
The Special Assembly for Oceania was the third continental or regional synodal Assembly to be held in the series announced by the Holy Father in the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente 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 Oceania. In a series of meetings held in Rome and Wellington, New Zealand, this Council offered assistance in drafting the Lineamenta, establishing criteria for participation, and finalizing the Instrumentum laboris.
A unique feature of this synodal Assembly was the fact that all bishops of the region participated as ex officio members. For convenience in travel and to avoid a repeated absence of the bishops from their local Churches, arrangements were made to hold the customary ad limina visits in conjunction with this Special Assembly. Even though pastoral situations in the region vary widely, many common concerns emerged in the course of Synod work, e.g., inculturation of the Gospel, renewed attention to catechetics and formation, the revitalisation of the faith of believers, and the pastoral care of youth, migrants and indigenous peoples. The entire treatment of topics at the synodal Assembly concentrated on the person of Christ, the way, the truth and the life.
On 11 December, the members of the Special Assembly elected a Post-Synodal Council, to which the Holy Father appointed three members. This Council held a number of meetings to discuss the outcome of the Special Assembly and to offer assistance to the Holy Father in drafting the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania, promulgated 22 November 2001 at an important, historic ceremony in the Vatican during which the document was simultaneously transmitted on the internet to all the dioceses of the region. Ecclesia in Oceania thus became the first papal document to be transmitted by internet in the computer age.
In 2003, the Post-Synodal Council met to begin the process of evaluating the impact and implementation of Ecclesia in Oceania in the region. In this regard, a questionnaire was composed and sent to all bishops in Oceania. The Special Council is scheduled to analyze the results of this consultation at its next meeting to be held in the summer of 2006, in Fiji, in conjunction with the Plenary Assembly of the Federation of the Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania.
Synod Fathers: 117
19. Second Special Assembly for Europe
In Session: 1 - 23 October 1999
Topic: Jesus Christ, Alive in His Church, Source of Hope for Europe
The Second Special Assembly for Europe was the last in the series of continental synodal Assemblies convoked by the Holy Father in his Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente as part of the preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000. Notwithstanding the fact that the First Special Assembly for Europe took place in 1991–less than a decade ago–new social and cultural situations, existent on the continent in the wake of political changes in the East, created pastoral challenges which made particularly opportune the convocation of a Second Special Assembly for Europe.
On 9 February 1997 the Holy Father appointed the Pre-Synodal Council to assist in the preparation of this synodal Assembly, which, with the help of theologians from Europe and the staff of the General Secretariat, published the Lineamenta (Spring, 1998) and the Instrumentum laboris (21 June 1999) of the Special Assembly.
In the course of the Second Special Assembly, the Synod Fathers gave attention to the various realities in the Church in Europe and the particular historic moment in the project towards unifying the continent. The topic of Jesus Christ, alive in his Church, dominated the synodal discussion on the cultural roots of the continent, while, at the same time, serving as the source of hope in the building of a new Europe on the foundation of faith.
The Post-Synodal Council, elected during the Assembly, held various meetings to analyze the outcome of the Synod and to contribute to the drafting of the Holy Father’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa which was promulgated in the Vatican, 28 June 2003, during Evening Prayer beginning the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
In 2004, the Post-Synodal Council met to begin the process of evaluating the impact and implementation of Ecclesia in Europa in the continent. In this regard, a questionnaire was composed and sent to the episcopal conferences and continental organizations in Europe in view of providing the same bodies with a summary report of the initiatives and programs, planned or underway, in the Church in Europe.
Synod Fathers: 117
20. Tenth Ordinary General Assembly
In Session: 30 September - 27 October 2001
Topic: The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World
In preparation for the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly, the Ninth Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat, in a series of periodic meetings assisted in the consultation process to determine the Synod topic and collaborated in the composition of the Lineamenta which was sent on 16 June 1998 to the bishops throughout the world and those customarily contacted in the consultation. The responses were subsequently analyzed and included in the Council’s work of drafting the Instrumentum laboris which was released on 1 June 2001.
During the synodal Assembly the Synod Fathers focused on the person and role of the bishop in his diocese at the beginning of the Third Millennium.
On 26 October 2001, the synodal Assembly elected members to the Tenth Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat to which the Holy Father appointed three members. In subsequent meetings, this Council analyzed the material which came from the Synod process, especially the synod’s Propositiones, so as to offer assistance to the Holy Father in his drafting the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores gregis, promulgated 16 October 2003, in conjunction with the 25th Anniversary of the Holy Father’s election.
Synod Fathers: 247
21. Eleventh Ordinary General Assembly
Scheduled to be in Session: 2 - 23 October 2005
Topic: The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church
On 29 November 2003, taking into consideration the opinion of the members of the Tenth Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, based on the consultation of the episcopal conferences worldwide and the other parties concerned, Pope John Paul II decided to convoke the Eleventh Ordinary General Assembly to treat the topic of the Eucharist. That the Pope’s choice came briefly after the publication of his encyclical on the same subject deserves attention. This synodal assembly is convoked to provide the Pope with the pastoral reflections of the world’s bishops on a subject vital to the life and mission of the Church.
The Lineamenta, composed by the Tenth Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat with the assistance of theologians, was sent to the episcopal conferences, the Eastern Churches sui iuris, the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the Union of Superiors General and other concerned parties on 31 March 2004. At a subsequent meeting the Council analyzed the responses to the questions in the Lineamenta and, again with the help of experts, drafted the Instrumentum Laboris, which was made public on 7 July 2005. During the synodal Assembly, this document will serve as the point of reference in treating an important topic for the life and mission of the Church.
 AAS 98 (2006), pp. 775-779.
 Cf. PAUL VI, Discourse to the Roman Curia (21 September 1963): Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, I (1963), p. 149; Apostolica Sollicitudo, Introduction, paragraphs 1, 2, 4.
 PAUL VI, Apostolic Letter Apostolica Sollicitudo: AAS 57 (1965), 775-780.
 Cf. THE CODE OF CANON LAW, canon 342.
 Cf. PAUL VI, Apostolica Sollicitudo, Introduction, paragraph 4.
 Cf. PAUL VI, Apostolica Sollicitudo, Introduction, paragraph 1; SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops Christus Dominus, n. 5; JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastoris Gregis (16 October 2003), n. 58: AAS 96 (2004) 902-905.
 JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastoris Gregis (16 October 2003), n. 58: AAS 96 (2004) 902-905.
 Cf. THE CODE OF CANON LAW, principally in canons 342-348.
 Cf. THE CODE OF CANON LAW, canon 334; THE CODE OF CANONS OF THE EASTERN CHURCHES, canon 46.
 Cf. ORDO SYNODI EPISCOPORUM, AAS 59 (1967) 91-103.
 ORDO SYNODI EPISCOPORUM CELEBRANDAE RECOGNITUS ET AUCTUS (24 June 1969): AAS 61 (1969) 525-539; ORDO SYNODI EPISCOPORUM CELEBRANDAE RECOGNITUS ET AUCTUS NONNULLIS ADDITAMENTIS (20 August 1971): AAS 63 (1971) 702-704.
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NB: This information has been collected and compiled
General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops
Vatican City, 15 september 2007.