.- A spirit of prayer will inspire the work of the forthcoming Synod of Bishops as it aims to create a roadmap for a new evangelization of historically Christian countries.
“Prayer accompanies and animates every Synodal activity,’ said Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, at an Oct. 5 media briefing.
He observed that every Christian is “invited to pray constantly, following the example of the Lord Jesus,” which is “all the more reason, (for) a meeting of bishops, representatives of the episcopate of the whole world, around the Bishop of Rome and the President of the Synod of Bishops” to be carried out in a context of prayer.
The 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will bring bishops from all over the world to Rome from Oct. 7-28 to discuss the theme of “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” In total, 262 Synod Fathers will participate in the three weeks of discussion, held at the Vatican’s Synod Hall.
Archbishop Eterovic said that the synod will begin its first meeting by invoking the Holy Spirit who is “the main protagonist in any Synod.”
Every morning after the synod has opened, the bishops’ deliberations will begin with mid-morning prayer, while their afternoon sessions will be prefaced by a “brief oration” of a spiritual nature. Each session, morning and afternoon, will then conclude with “a cordial invocation of the protection of the Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and the Star of the New Evangelization.”
A chapel with the Blessed Sacrament is located next to the Synod Hall and will be open throughout the gathering to offer to participants “the chance to rest in mediation before the Master who continues to send his disciples along the road throughout the world to proclaim the Gospel,” the archbishop said.
Archbishop Eterovic explained that the work of the synod will be accompanied by four papal liturgies.
The opening Mass for the synod on Oct. 7 will involve Pope Benedict XVI declaring St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen as new Doctors of the Church.
The Pope’s next Mass will take place on Oct. 11 and will serve to launch the Church’s Year of Faith.
On Oct. 21, Pope Benedict will canonize seven new saints at a Mass in St. Peter’s Square. This includes two new American saints, Blessed Marianne Cope and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.
Finally, the synod will conclude Oct. 28 with Pope Benedict celebrating Mass, joined by all the participating bishops and priests.
As well as a spiritual dimension, Archbishop Eterovic said the two other “mutually interlinking aspects” of the synod will be “theological pastoral reflection” and “technical and organizational preparation.”
The agenda for the gathering is laid out in its working document or “Instrumentum laboris.” It was published on June 19, following consultations with the worldwide Church for over a year.
“Each Synod Father should make reference to it in his speech,” said Archbishop Eterovic, “in this way the Synod should be able to elaborate on themes already outlined, shedding new light on subjects of great current ecclesial and social importance.”
He also revealed that contributions will be made by representatives from Churches and Christian communities “not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church.” This includes an address on Oct. 10 by Dr. Rowan Williams, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury.
The 262 Synod Fathers are comprised of 103 participants from Europe, 63 from the Americas, 50 from Africa, 39 from Asia and 7 from Oceania. Among their number are 6 patriarchs, 49 cardinals, 3 metropolitan archbishops – one of whom is a cardinal – 71 archbishops, 120 bishops and 14 priests.
During the synod there will be 23 General Congregations in which all members will participate. There will also be eight smaller sessions that are divided up by the 12 different official languages of the synod.