Established in 1965 by Paul VI
VATICAN CITY, 30 SEPT. 2001 (ZENIT).
The term "synod" stems from two Greek
words: "syn," which means "together," and "hodos,"
which means "way," in other words, to "come
together," to "walk together."
The institution of the synod of bishops was established by Paul VI on
Sept. 15, 1965, in keeping with the request of the Fathers of the Second
Vatican Council, to maintain the collegial spirit fostered by the
In synod assemblies, the Holy Father and the bishops generally discuss
questions relating to the universal Church, although they can also
address issues of local Churches. Usually the participants are
representatives of the episcopate.
The synod exercises its function primarily as a consultative body under
the direct authority of the Pope. He convokes the synod; chooses the
topic; designates its members; in general, presides over the assembly;
and decides how to implement suggestions made by the bishops.
There are three types of synod sessions: 1) ordinary general assemblies,
which attend to matters concerning the whole Church; 2) extraordinary
general assemblies, which address issues that need rapid resolution; 3)
special assemblies, which focus on problems relating directly to
specific Churches or regions.
The Holy Father is the president of the synod. There is also a
secretary-general, assisted by an ordinary Council of the General
Secretariat, composed of bishops.
There have been 19 synods: nine ordinary, two extraordinary and eight
special. The following is a list of all the synods held to date, and the
documents stemming from them.
1. Revision of the Code of Canon Law (Sept. 29-Oct. 29, 1967).
Documents: Institution of the International Theological Commission, and
"Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis."
2. Ministerial Priesthood; Justice in the World (Sept. 30-Nov. 6, 1971).
Documents on Justice in the World and on the Ministerial Priesthood.
3. Evangelization of the Contemporary World (Sept. 27-Oct. 26, 1974).
Documents: Declaration of Synodal Fathers, and Paul VI's apostolic
exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi."
4. Catechesis in Our Time, Especially of Children and Youth (Sept.
30-Oct. 29, 1977). Document: John Paul II's apostolic exhortation "Catechesi
5. The Christian Family (Sept. 26-Oct. 25, 1980). Document: John Paul
II's apostolic exhortation "Familiaris Consortio."
6. Reconciliation and Penance in the Pastoral Mission of the Church
(Sept. 29-Oct. 20, 1983). Document: John Paul II's apostolic exhortation
"Reconciliatio et Paenitentia."
7. Vocation and Mission of the Laity in the Church and in the World 20
Years after Vatican Council II (Oct. 1-30, 1987). Document: John Paul
II's apostolic exhortation "Christifedeles Laici."
8. Formation of Priests in Contemporary Society (Oct. 1-28, 1990).
Document: John Paul II's apostolic exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis."
9. Consecrated Life and Its Function in the Church and in the World
(Oct. 2-29, 1995). Document: John Paul II's apostolic exhortation
1. Cooperation of Episcopal Conferences with the Holy See and Among
Themselves (Sept. 11-Oct. 28, 1968). Documents: Message to Priests and
2. Commemoration, Evaluation and Promotion of Vatican Council II on the
20th Anniversary of Its Conclusion (Nov. 25-Dec. 8, 1985). Documents:
Message to Christians and Final Report of the Synod.
1. Special Synod of the Bishops of the Low Countries: The Church's
Pastoral Care in Holland in the Present Situation (Jan. 14-31, 1980).
Final document of the special synod.
2. Special Assembly for Europe: We Are Witnesses of Christ Who Has
Delivered Us (Nov. 28-Dec. 14, 1991).
3. Synod of Bishops Special Assembly for Africa: Africa and Its Mission
of Evangelization Toward the Year 2000: You Will Be My Witnesses (April
10-May 8, 1994). Document: apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in
Africa" (Sept. 14, 1995).
4. Synod of Bishops Special Assembly for Lebanon: Christ Is Our Hope:
Renewed by His Spirit, in Solidarity, We Witness to His Love (Nov.
26-Dec. 14, 1995). Document: apostolic exhortation "A New Hope for
Lebanon (May 10, 1997).
5. Synod of Bishops Special Assembly for America: Encounter with the
Living Jesus Christ, the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in
America (Nov. 16 to Dec. 12, 1997). Document: apostolic exhortation
"Ecclesia in America" (Jan. 22, 1999).
6. Synod of Bishops Special Assembly for Asia: Jesus Christ the Savior
and His Mission of Love and Service in Asia: "That They May Have
Life, and that They May Have It in Abundance" (April 19-May 14,
1998). Document: apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Asia"
(Nov. 6, 1999).
7. Synod of Bishop Special Assembly for Oceania: Jesus Christ and the
Peoples of Oceania: To Walk His Way, Tell His Truth, Live His Life (Nov.
22-Feb. 12, 1998).
8. Synod of Bishops 2nd Special Assembly for Europe: Jesus Christ Living
in His Church, Source of Hope for Europe (Oct. 1-23, 1999).