.- On Sunday, during his noontime Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict XVI challenged Catholic faithful to participate in the preparatory phase of the upcoming worldwide Synod of Catholic Bishops "with prayer and reflection" and stressed the need for devotion to the Eucharist in the daily life of the Church.
The synod will conclude the Year of the Eucharist, instituted by Pope John Paul II in October of 2004 "to reawaken among Christian people faith, wonder and love for this great Sacrament that constitutes the true treasure of the Church."
Thousands of faithful were on hand yesterday as the Holy Father reiterated that the focus of the synod will be: "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church."
The Pope also praised the central role of the Eucharist at last month's World Youth Day in Germany, specifically recalling Saturday night's vigil at Marienfeld, "which had its culminating moment in the adoration of the Eucharist."
"I trust", the Pope said, "that, thanks to the commitment of pastors and faithful, participation in the Eucharist becomes ever more assiduous and fervent in all communities. Today, I would particularly like to call on people to sanctify with joy the 'day of the Lord,' Sunday, the holy day for Christians. In this context, I wish to recall the figure of St. Gregory the Great. ... That illustrious Pope made an enormously important contribution to the promotion of the liturgy in its various aspects and, in particular, to the correct celebration of the Eucharist."
The Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution set forth in 1965 by Pope Paul VI for the purpose of unity and discussion among the Church's shepherds throughout the world.
The bishops gather periodically to consult with the Pope and to discuss pastoral needs in the Church and how best to spread the Gospel message in the face of a changing world.
Following each Synod, the Pope makes an apostolic exhortation, or a statement which unites the bishops with the pope, as head of the Church.
Canon Law states that "The Synod of bishops is that group of bishops who have been chosen from different regions of the world and who meet at stated times to foster a closer unity between the Roman Pontiff and the bishops, to assist the Roman Pontiff with their counsel in safeguarding and increasing faith and morals and in preserving and strengthening ecclesiastical discipline, and to consider questions concerning the Church's activity in the world."
The authority of a Synod is different than that of an Episcopal council in that it discusses desires and issues with the Holy Father but does not necessarily seek to solve them. There is no distinct ecclesial power given to the Synod and in the rare case where there is, it is up to the Pope to ratify any decisions made by the group.