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THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS

 

This webpage offers information on the Synod of Bishops. When scrolling below, you will find links to available documents related to respective Synods.

 

The Synod of Bishops, in the Roman Catholic Church, is an advisory body for the Pope. It is "a group of bishops who have been chosen from different regions of the world and meet together at fixed times to foster closer unity between the Roman Pontiff and bishops, to assist the Roman Pontiff with their counsel in the preservation and growth of faith and morals and in the observance and strengthening of ecclesiastical discipline, and to consider questions pertaining to the activity of the Church in the world" (Canon Law #342).

 

Of its nature, the Synod of Bishops is permanent, even when not in session (I. Apostolica sollicitudo, 1965 motu proprio and Summary of Synod Assemblies, updated 2004). Periodically, it holds assemblies, which are either general, if called to consider matters directly concerning the universal Church, or special, if called for problems of a particular geographical area (Canon Law #345). The general assemblies are either ordinary, which are held at fixed intervals, or extraordinary, which are held to treat of some urgent matter (Canon #346).

 

As well as holding these periodical assemblies, the Synod of Bishops has a permanent secretariat (Canon #348) which is headquartered in Rome but is not part of the Roman Curia, the administrative apparatus of the Holy See and the central body through which the Roman Pontiff conducts the affairs of the universal Catholic Church.

 

The Code of Canon Law's chapter on the Synod of Bishops comes after that on the Pope and the College of Bishops, and before that on the cardinals. In the Annuario Pontificio, the annual directory of the Holy See, information on it is given before that on episcopal conferences (an official assembly of all the bishops of a given territory).

 

ESTABLISHMENT AND NATURE

 

On September 15, 1965, as the Second Vatican Council was drawing to a close, Pope Paul VI set up the Synod of Bishops, exhorting that the Pope needed "to make ever greater use of the bishops' assistance in providing for the good of the universal Church" and to enjoy "the consolation of their presence, the help of their wisdom and experience, the support of their counsel, and the voice of their authority" (Apostolica Sollicitudo, Introduction, 1965).

 

The Synod of the Bishops is a form not of collegial governance of the Church, but of collaborating with the primatial function of the Pope. It discusses topics proposed to it and makes recommendations, but does not settle questions or issue decrees, unless the Pope grants it deliberative power in certain cases  (Canon Law #343).

 

SECRETARIAT AND COUNCIL

 

The Synod of the Bishops has its own permanent general secretariat, composed of the General Secretary and a fifteen-member council, twelve of whom are elected by the general assembly and three appointed by the Pope. The secretariat assists in preparing the apostolic exhortation which the Pope publishes on the basis of the recommendations of the general assembly, and it prepares the next assembly. Their function ceases with the start of a new general assembly. A similar function is performed by specific special councils elected by the special assemblies (Canon #348, Notes on the Synodal Process, Okoye 2011, pg 17).

 

ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLIES

 

#

DATE CONVOKED

TOPIC

CONCLUDING DOCUMENT

I

Sept 29- Oct 29, 1967

The Preservation and Strengthening

of the Catholic Faith, its Integrity,

its Force, its Development and its

Doctrinal and Historical Coherence

 

 

II

Sept 30- Nov 6, 1971

The Ministerial Priesthood

and Justice in the World

Justice in the World

November 1971

III

Sept 27- Oct 26, 1974

Evangelization

in the Modern World

Evangelii Nuntiandi

December 1975

IV

Sept 30- Oct 29, 1977

Catechesis in Our Time

Catechesi Tradendae

October 1979

V

Sept 26- Oct 25, 1980

The Christian Family

Familiaris Consortio

November 1981

VI

Sept 29- Oct 29, 1983

Penance and Reconciliation

in the Mission of the Church

Reconciliatio Et Paenitentia

December 1984

VII

Oct 1- Oct 30, 1987

The Vocation and Mission

of the Lay Faithful in the Church

and in the World

Christifideles Laici

December 1988

VIII

Sept 30- Oct 28, 1990

The Formation of Priests in

Circumstances of the Present Day

Pastores Dabo Vobis

March 1992

IX

Oct 2- Oct 29, 1994

The Consecrated Life and its Role in the Church and in the World

Vita Consecrata

March 1996

X

Sept 30- Oct 27, 2001

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

Pastores Gregis

October 2003

XI

Oct 2- Oct 23, 2005

The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church

Sacramentum Caritatis

February 2007

XII

Oct 5- Oct 26, 2008

The Word of God in the Life and

Mission of the Church

Verbum Domini

September 2010

XIII

Oct 7- Oct 28, 2012

The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith

Evangelii Gaudium

November 2013

XIV

Oct 4- Oct 25, 2015

The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World

 

 

EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLIES

 

#

DATE CONVOKED

TOPIC

CONCLUDING DOCUMENT

I

Oct 11- Oct 28, 1969

The Cooperation

between the Holy See

and Episcopal Conferences

 

 

II

Nov 25- Dec 8, 1985

20th Anniversary of the Conclusion of the

Second Vatican Council

The Church, in the Word of God, Celebrates the Mysteries of Christ for the Salvation of the World

III

Oct 5- Oct 19,

2014

Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization

Relatio Synodi

 

SPECIAL ASSEMBLIES

 

#

DATE CONVOKED

TOPIC

CONCLUDING DOCUMENT

 

Jan 14- Jan 31, 1980

The Pastoral Situation

in the Netherlands

Conclusions of the Special Synod of the Bishops of the Netherlands

January 1980

I

Nov 28- Dec 14, 1991

So That We Might Be Witnesses

of Christ Who Has Set Us Free

Declaration authored by Synod Fathers

I

Apr 10- May 8, 1994

The Church in Africa

and Her Evangelizing Mission

Towards the Year 2000:

‘You Shall Be My Witnesses

Ecclesia in Africa

September 1995

 

Nov 26- Dec 14, 1995

Christ is Our Hope:

Renewed by His Spirit,in Solidarity

We Bear Witness to His Love

Ecclesia in Lebanon

May 1997

 

Nov 16- Dec 12, 1997

Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the Way to Conversion,

Communion and Solidarity in America

Ecclesia in America

November 1999

 

Apr 19- May 14, 1998

Jesus Christ the Savior and His Mission of Love and Service in Asia: ‘...That They May Have Life, and Have it Abundantly'

Ecclesia in Asia

November 1999

 

 

Nov 22- Dec 12, 1998

Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth,

Living His Life

Ecclesia in Oceania

November 1999

II

Oct 1- Oct 23,

1999

Jesus Christ, Alive in His Church,

Source of Hope for Europe

Ecclesia in Europa

June 2003

II

Oct 4- Oct 25,

2009

The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace: 'You are the salt of the earth ... You are the light of the world'

Africae Munus

November 2011

 

Oct 10- Oct 24, 2010

The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness

Ecclesia in Medio Oriente

September 2012

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