.- This morning at the Vatican, secretary general, Archbishop Nikola Eterovicand, and under-secretary Msgr. Fortunato Frezza, of the Synod of Bishops presented the long awaited “Instrumentum laboris” for the upcoming Eucharistic Synod of Bishops, and outlined many changes which will be implemented this year. In his opening statement, Archbishop Eterovicand recalled remarks made by just-elected Pope Benedict XVI on April 20, who called October's 11th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops “a high point of the Year of the Eucharist inaugurated by John Paul II on October 17, 2004."
The secretary general also noted that the Pope had changed the dates of the assembly, which will now "last not four but three weeks, from October 2 to 23rd,” adding that Benedict had “modified the program of the synodal assembly in order to concentrate its activities and further encourage its collegial and synodal aspects."
Archbishop Eterovicand also noted several new innovations of the synod saying that, "Each of the synod father's contribution in the synod hall is to last six minutes, not eight as was the previous practice. ... The principal reason for this cutback is the introduction of an hour's free discussion, between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the end of each day's general congregation."
He said that this system, "through an open exchange of views and experiences, will facilitate a more profound examination of current issues connected with the mystery of the Eucharist."
Despite these changes however, the number of participants will remain at around 250.
The archbishop also noted that the time dedicated to the working groups will also be reduced. "As is customary,” he said, “there will be 12 working groups, divided according to the five languages of the Synod."
He said that the Assembly would also be attended by a "considerable number of auditors, both men and women," and by "a group of experts whose expertise on the questions studied will help the synod fathers in their work."
The number of fraternal delegates from other Churches and ecclesial communities has nearly doubled that of previous Synods to include 12 representatives from the Orthodox Churches, from the Ancient Churches of the East and from post-Reformation communities.
"It may be said”, noted the archbishop, “that this is one of the concrete gestures of ecumenism, as anticipated by Benedict XVI at the start of his pontificate."
In addition, Pope Benedict has accepted a proposal to dedicate one of the sessions to commemorating the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Synod of Bishops, which coincides with October's assembly.
Turning to the presentation of the Instrumentum laboris, Msgr. Fortunato Frezza highlighted the fact that the working document summarizes "an enormous quantity of information from all over the earth. Indeed, it is by no means common to find another organization with a document bringing together a similar amount of data from all over the world."
He also said that the document outlines the theme of the forthcoming Synod within the context of traditional doctrine and Magisterium, and added that, "the Eucharist strongly asserts the idea of a gift as a fulfilling response to the most profound questions of individuals and peoples."