by Elise Harris
The Synod of Bishops met in Rome this week to finalize the preparatory document and questionnaire that will form the basis of the discussion for the upcoming gathering to discuss youth, faith and discernment.
Pope Francis presided over the Nov. 21-22 meeting, which marked the second time the Ordinary Council of the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops have met since the members were announced.
The Council for the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops is charged with preparing for the Ordinary Synod, which takes place every three years to discuss a specific theme of importance in the Church.
Serving as an advisory body to the Pope, the synod of bishops was established by Pope Paul VI in 1965 by the motu proprio Apostolica sollicitudo to “strengthen (the Pope’s) union” with other bishops and to “establish even closer ties” with them.
The Synod Council is composed of a permanent Secretary General (Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri) and Undersecretary (Bishop Fabio Fabene), as well as 15 members – 3 from each continent, with Asia and Oceana (Australia) counted as one – and three appointed by the Pope.
Announced Oct. 6, the theme for the next Ordinary Synod, scheduled to take place in October 2018, will discuss “Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.”
According to a Nov. 23 Vatican communique, before getting down to business, the Synod Council’s two-day meeting opened with a speech from the secretary-general, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, who thanked Pope Francis for his presence and congratulated two council members who were made cardinals by the Pope Nov. 19: Cardinal Sergio Da Rocha of Brasilia and Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid.
Though they aren’t members of the Synod Council, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; Cardinal Beniamino Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy and Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, were invited to join the meeting, given their competency surrounding the synod theme.
Discussion focused largely on the “Ordo Synodi Episcoporum,” which is basically the regulations that establish the composition of the synod and how it functions, as well as the preparatory document and questionnaire that will be sent out to bishops’ conferences around the world ahead of the 2018 gathering.
The document was elaborated on by the secretary-general, Baldisseri, with the help of “the competent experts” on the synod theme, according to the communique.
Council members then expressed their appreciation for the document before giving suggestions on how it could be made better.
The document, which includes a questionnaire, will be sent out to Episcopal Conferences and to Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches “sui iuris” (independent) so that it can be distributed to dioceses and other ecclesial institutions throughout the world in order to prepare for the 2018 Ordinary Synod.
During the meeting, members of the Synod Council split up into small groups divided by continent in order to identify specific questions regarding youth “in different geographical and cultural contexts.”
Proposals for the preparatory text and questionnaire were then collected and inserted into the document, which was then “approved unanimously.”
When it came to discussion on the “Ordo Synodi Episcoporum,” members discussed the regulations and listened to a presentation given by Bishop Fabene, undersecretary of the council, who spoke about the work already in progress regarding the revision of the synodal legislation with the help of experts.
Fabene’s presentation, the communique noted, was followed by “a fruitful exchange of views.”