Synods Since Vatican II

Author: ZENIT



Established in 1965 by Paul VI


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 council.

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.

Ordinary synods

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 Tradendae."

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 "Vita Consecrata."

Extraordinary synods

1. Cooperation of Episcopal Conferences with the Holy See and Among Themselves (Sept. 11-Oct. 28, 1968). Documents: Message to Priests and Final Declaration.

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.

Special synods

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).

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