Oct 6, 2015
Last year, the Extraordinary Synod on the Family took place in Rome from Oct. 5 to19. The participants boldly examined family life in the light of today's culture. They did not shy away from topics such as the breakdown in marriages, multiple marriages, polygamy, divorce, inter-religious marriages, cohabitation, same-sex relationships, domestic violence as well as the effects of war and immigration on the family. The heated debates, news leaks and media reports stirred vigorous discussion both inside and outside the synod halls. A sense of heightened expectation and anxiety now await the final outcome of those deliberations.
Just six days after his return to the Vatican from his nine- day apostolic journey to Cuba and the United States, Pope Francis convoked the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The bishops are meeting from the 4th to the 25th of October. They are revisiting the proposals that emerged from last year's extraordinary synod. As the turbulent winds of modern secularism batter the bark of Peter, honest debate among bishops should never lead to simply accepting cultural trends. Divine Revelation is always the source for responding pastorally to the challenges of any age so that the faithful live out the universal call to holiness.
Just before the closing of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI first introduced the Synod of Bishops as a permanent feature of Church structure. The word "synod" comes from the Greek and means "assembly" or "gathering." Every synod is a means for the pope to consult with his brother bishops on matters of Church life.
If the bishops gathered in synod consider matters that directly concern the entire Church, such as the New Evangelization or the Eucharist, their meeting is called a general synod. Since 1967, there have been 13 ordinary general synods. If the bishops examine situations in particular areas, such as Europe, or America, their assembly is called a special synod. There have been 10 special synods. Since 1969, there have also been three extraordinary general synods to discuss particular topics, such as the Word of God in the life of the Church.