VATICAN CITY, OCT. 2, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Synod of Bishops as an institution was a response to the desire of the Second Vatican Council fathers to keep alive the positive spirit of the conciliar experience.
A synod, a Greek word meaning “coming together,” is a religious meeting or assembly at which bishops, representing the Catholic episcopate, have the task of helping the Pope in the governing the universal Church by rendering their counsel.
The idea of the Synod of Bishops grew from a need to provide the bishops with a way to assist the Pope in his governing of the universal Church.
Pope Paul VI, while he was still archbishop of Milan, in a talk commemorating the death of John XXIII, made reference to an “ongoing collaboration of the episcopate that is not yet in effect, which would remain personal and in union, but given the responsibility of governing the whole Church.”
As Pope Paul VI, he then established the Synod of Bishops at the end of Vatican II.
Announcing the news to the council fathers, the Pope said: “We intend to give you some institution, called for by this council, a ‘Synod of Bishops,’ which will be made up of bishops nominated for the most part by the episcopal conferences with our approval and called by the Pope according to the needs of the Church, for his consultation and collaboration, when for the well-being of the Church it might seem to him opportune.
“It goes without saying that this collaboration of the episcopate ought to bring the greatest joy to the Holy See and to the whole Church.”
The Synod of Bishops was officially instituted Sept. 15, 1965.
The principal characteristic of the synod is service to the communion and collegiality of the world’s bishops with the Holy Father.
The Synod of Bishops has a permanent General Secretariat located in Rome, but is not part of the Roman Curia. It is subject directly and solely to the Holy Father.
Though the institution of the synod is permanent in character, its actual functioning and concrete collaboration are not. That is, the synod meets and operates only when the Pope considers it necessary or opportune to consult the episcopate.