Next Synod to Be Shorter, More Open, and Ecumenical

Secretary-General Outlines Changes OK’d by Benedict XVI

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 7, 2005 ( The Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist will allocate time for participants to address the assembly freely and will host twice the number of representatives from other Christian confessions as before.

Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary-general of the synod, explained the changes in methodology today at a press conference when he presented the synod’s working document. The changes have the approval of Benedict XVI.

«The novelties will be introduced while respecting the continuity and positive praxis of the synodal experience,» said Archbishop Eterovic.

The theme of the Oct. 2-23 synod is «The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church.»

The 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be shorter in duration than the preceding ones, lasting three weeks, and not a whole month, as Pope John Paul II first planned.

The decision was made by Benedict XVI, not only to «favor the bishops’ stay in their sees,» but also to foster «greater concentration» during the discussions.

Each participant will be able to address the synod for six minutes, not eight, as in the past.

«The main reason for this reduction is the introduction of free addresses by participants for one hour, from 6-7 p.m. every day at the end of the general congregation,» Archbishop Eterovic explained.

Fresh ideas sought

This methodology will «allow members to request and obtain more information from synodal fathers who have already spoken in the assembly hall,» he continued.

The organizers hope that the new procedure will make possible «an open exchange of points of view and experiences on the most important current issues connected with the mystery of the Eucharist.»

The open discussions will be moderated by the presidents delegate of the synod: Cardinal Francis Arinze, of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, of Guadalajara, Mexico; and Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, of Ranchi, India.

The discussions will take place in the synod’s five official languages: Italian, French, English, Spanish and German. In the past, some participants spoke in Latin.

There will be 12 working groups, which will write proposals that will then be voted on and given to the Pope. The Holy Father will then write the postsynodal apostolic exhortation, the meeting’s conclusive document.

«It is hoped that the proposals will not repeat the traditional doctrine of the Church, but that they will be oriented to fostering a renewal of the pastoral application and liturgical celebration of the sacrament of the Eucharist in the universal Church,» said Archbishop Eterovic.

As in preceding synods, the number of participants will be about 250. The only change in this connection will be the notable increase in «fraternal delegates,» representatives of denominations and ecclesial communities.

High-tech innovations

«While in the last synod representatives of six churches and Christian communities participated, for the next synodal meeting 12 representatives have been invited from Orthodox Churches, ancient churches of the East [and] from communities that arose from the Reformation,» disclosed Archbishop Eterovic.

«It could be said that it is one of the concrete gestures of ecumenism backed by the Holy Father Benedict XVI at the beginning of his pontificate,» he added.

In addition to these changes, the archbishop explained that new technologies allow for innovations such as «tele-video and electronic voting services for questions of minor importance.»

«These changes,» the synod’s secretary-general said, «are oriented to make the dialogue easier and more beneficial among the synodal fathers in the exercise of effective and affective collegiality among themselves and with the Holy Father, visible head of the episcopal order.»

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