October 13th: What is the Purpose of a Worldwide Synod and How Does it Work??
In his opening statement the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic describes the purpose of the synod in this way: “the Synod of Bishops can provide the Pontiff with sound counsel over all the various ecclesial problems. In this way, the Synod of Bishops, like any other collegial body, has as its ultimate goal the search for truth or the good of the Church. The consensus Ecclesiae which is obtained through the verification of that same faith, is "the outcome of the working of the Spirit, the soul of the one Church of Christ.".
For those of you who are wondering about how the synod does its work, here is a brief overview of the basic process.
The Instrumentum Laboris (Working Document): The synod’s Instrumentum Laboris (working document) was created from the input the members of the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops received from responses to the Lineamenta (outline) from bishops, bishops’ conferences, heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches, individual bishops, curial dicasteries (offices) religious orders and lay people in all the nations of the world. The Instrumentum Laboris is meant to shape the content of what will be discussed at the synod.
To view the Lineamenta click here
To view the Instrumentum Laboris click here
What Happens During the Three Weeks of the Synod?
A. Report Before the Discussion: At the beginning of the synod, Cardinal Marc Ouelette, Archbishop of Quebec, presented a lengthy theological reflection designed to serve as a “jumping off point” for synod discussion.
B. Report from Five Continents: Also on the first day, five prelates (called “Relators”) from each of the 5 continents presents a ten minute overview of the theme of the Word of God for each region.
C. Interventions and Interactions: Any synod delegate who wishes may prepare a five minute “intervention” on an aspect of the Instrumentum Laboris. These are divided into the three main parts of the document, namely:
a. Introduction and the theme of The Mystery of God who speaks to us
b. The Word of God in the life of the Church
c. The Word of God in the mission of the Church
Each morning and afternoon the entire body of the synod including 253 Synod Bishops, 41 biblical/theological experts and 27 auditors listen to five minute “interventions” (aka speeches) from each bishop, or a 4 minute intervention from each auditor. At the end of each day, an hour is given to free floating discussion of what has been heard. A synod bishop may speak for no longer than 3 minutes with the right, where necessary, to make only one reply.
D. Twelve Small Groups for Processing. Synod bishops, experts and auditors are divided into twelve small groups according to language to discuss what they have heard. These groups make recommendations as to what the final synod propositions will be.
E. Elections Near the beginning of the synod, an election is held to choose twelve prelates who will compose the final synod message. The aim is to assure appropriate representation and diversity on the committee. Most observers believe those elected to prepare the message this year fall in the moderate to progressive categories. Cardinals Gottfried Daneels (Belgium), Walter Kasper (Vatican City) John ONAIYEKAN,(Nigeria) being among them. (see below for complete list)
Each small group also elects a moderator and relator for their group. Cardinal Francis George was elected moderator of his small group and Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson was elected relator. (The relator is the one who reports back to the assembly about the work of their group)
F. Presentation After the Discussion Approximately midway, but after all the individual “interventions” from bishops and auditors, (October 16 this year) another prelate will give the “Presentation After the Discussion” which is designed to focus the small group discussion and formulation of propositions.
G. Formulation of Propositions Over several days the Bishops discuss and prepare approximately 19-20 propositions. During the two days when no general congregation is held synod officials and small group relators synthesize the propositions from the 12 small groups into one final set of propositions. These are presented to the assembly, discussed and amended over several days until the final set of propositions are voted on and accepted.
H. Formulation of the Message from the Synod. A draft of the “message from the synod” is prepared by those bishops elected to compose the message (below). This is discussed, amended and voted on over several days.
I. Voting procedures. Electronic voting procedures are used to save time and allow results to be known in real-time. However, to prevent “even the slightest of possibilities of error” votes are counted both electronically and in writing. Official results are tabulated and announced by a Scrutiny Committee.
COMMITTEE FOR THE COMMISSION FOR THE MESSAGE
We publish here below the names of the Members of the Commission for the Message, elected
in the Sixth Congregation of this morning, Thursday 9 October 2008, including the Members
of the pontifical nomination:
- H.E. Most. Rev. Gianfranco RAVASI, Titular Archbishop of Villamagna di Proconsolare,
President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (VATICAN CITY)
- H.E. Most. Rev. Santiago Jaime SILVA RETAMALES, Titular Bishop of Bela, Auxiliary
Bishop of Valparaíso (CHILE)
- H. Em. Card. Godfried DANNEELS, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel, President of the
Episcopal Conference (BELGIUM) (PROGRESSIVE)
- H. Em. Card. Oscar Andrés RODRÍGUEZ MARADIAGA, S.D.B., Archbishop of
Tegucigalpa, President of the Episcopal Conference (HONDURAS) (PAPABILE?)
- H. Em. Card. Walter KASPER, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of
Christian Unity (VATICAN CITY)
- H.E. Most. Rev. Anthony Sablan APURON, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Agaña, President of
the Episcopal Conference (GUAM)
- H.E. Most. Rev. John Olorunfemi ONAIYEKAN, Archbishop of Abuja (NIGERIA)
- H.E. Most. Rev. Thomas MENAMPARAMPIL, S.D.B., Archbishop of Guwahati (INDIA)
- H.E. Most. Rev. Zbigniew KIERNIKOWSKI, Bishop of Siedlce (POLAND)
- H.E. Most. Rev. Basil Myron SCHOTT, O.F.M., Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh of
Byzantines, President of the Council of the Ruthene Church (UNITED STATES OF
- H.E. Most. Rev. Louis PELÂTRE, A.A., Titular Bishop of Sasima, Apostolic Vicar of
Istanbul, Apostolic Administrator for the Apostolic Exarcate of Istanbul (TURKEY)
- Rev. Father Carlos Alfonso AZPIROZ COSTA, O.P., General Master of the Order of