The Synod of Bishops has begun breaking into small discussion groups, with Americans Cardinal Raymond Burke and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz serving as two moderators of the first round of discussions.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said that the  bishops in the small groups will provide input drawn "from their pastoral experience."

The discussions mark a new phase in the extraordinary synod, meeting from Oct. 5-19 to address the topic of the family in the context of the "new evangelization." The discussion groups are separated by language: English, French, Spanish and Italian.

Cardinal Burke, a former Archbishop of St. Louis, is prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest tribunal ruling on the Catholic Church's canon law. Archbishop Kurtz is Archbishop of Louisville and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They are moderators of the three English-language circles along with Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa.

The three Italian-language discussion circles are moderated by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, who heads the Italian bishops' conference; and Archbishop Angelo Massafra of Shkodre, Albania. The two Spanish-language discussion groups will be moderated by Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega of Guadalajara, Mexico and Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Spain. The French-language moderators are Cardinal Robert Sarah, a native of Guinea who heads the Pontifical Council Cor Unum; and Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, Austria.

Other synod officials, called relators, will help summarize the first session of discussions and the bishops' reactions to synod discussions in a document known as a "relatio."

Archbishop Martin is among the relators for the first series of discussion circles.

"People have spoken clearly, they have spoken of different opinions," the archbishop said at an Oct. 11 press conference at the Vatican.

He said there is also an obligation to minority opinions that emerge.

"At the moment I imagine the relatio will probably draw attention to some of the subjects of theological debate," he said. "This synod is going to come to a conclusion, and this synod can't simply repeat what has been said 30 years ago."

For his part, Archbishop Martin discussed the problems facing young people

"It's very hard for young persons to understand life-long commitment, without really strong catechesis," he said.

The archbishop said discussions focused on "the way we prepare young people to understand this."

"I think we should be able to see a much stronger way to educate people."