Pope Francis on September 18, 2018, published an “Episcopalis communion” (Apostolic Constitute) to update the structure of the Synod of Bishops first set forth by Pope Paul VI in 1965.
The new document was presented at a press conference in Rome and comes less than a month before the start of Synod 2018, which runs October 3-28, 2018. The synod is on the theme: Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.
After recalling how the Synod was established by Paul VI, and describing the Synod as one of the “most precious legacies of the Second Vatican Council,” Pope Francis emphasizes the “efficacious collaboration” of the Synod of Bishops with the Roman Pontiff on questions of major importance; that is, questions which “require a special knowledge and prudence for the good of the whole Church.” This is according to Vatican News.
Pope Francis said the Church is led to a new “evangelizing stage” towards “a permanent state of mission”. The Synod of Bishops is called “to become an even greater channel” for the evangelization of today’s world.
Pope Paul VI had already foreseen that, with the passage of time, such an institution could be perfected. In 2006, the most recent revision of the Ordo Synodi (the regulations governing the Synod) was promulgated by Benedict XVI. In a particular way, the duties of the General Secretariat of the Synod – composed of the Secretary-General and a special Council of Bishops – were established and gradually strengthened.
The Pope said there has been a growing desire in recent years that the Synod should increasingly become “a particular manifestation of the efficacious realization of the solicitude of the episcopate for the whole church.” This, he explained, is based on “the firm conviction” that all the pastors have been constituted “for service to the holy People of God, to which they themselves pertain in virtue of the sacrament of Baptism.”
Bishops are at the same time “teachers and disciples,” in their duty, which involves their mission, but also their commitment to listening to the voice of Christ, who speaks through the People of God in such a way as to make them “infallibile in credendo,” infallible in believing, according to the Pope. Therefore, the Synod should “become ever more a privileged instrument of listening to the People of God.” It does so by consulting with faithful of the particular churches; because the Pope says, while the Synod is an essentially episcopal institution, it is nonetheless true that it cannot exist “separated from the rest of the faithful.”
Pope Francis said he hoped that the Synod might, “in its own way contribute to the restoration, of unity among all Christians, in accordance with the will of the Lord.” By doing so, it can help the Church “find a way of exercising the [papal] primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation,” as Pope St John Paul said in Ut unum sint.