Vatican City, 2 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, gave a presentation of the phases and methods of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world”, which will commence on Sunday 4 October.
“Tomorrow evening, in St. Peter's Square, in the presence of the Holy Father, a prayer vigil will be held in preparation for the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be attended by the Synod Fathers, the participants in the Synod and all the faithful of the world, on an initiative of the Italian Episcopal Conference, which has invited families, movements and ecclesial associations. At nightfall the beauty of the family will shine through lighted torches. The trustful invocation of the Holy Spirit by the People of God is the prelude to the work of the Synod; indeed, we recall the important tone given to the last Extraordinary General Assembly by the Holy Father, with the powerful homily he gave during the Vigil.
The Mass on Sunday morning, presided by the Holy Father, will signal the opening of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod on 'The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world', allowing all the faithful of the world to join the common path of the pastors cum Petro et sub Petro.
This Assembly is the culmination of the synodal journey undertaken two years ago, with the distribution of the first questionnaire to all the particular Churches, enabling the profile of the family in the world, its riches and its challenges, to be outlined. The Extraordinary General Assembly then prepared a Final Report (Relatio Synodi) which raised further questions; the answers have been incorporated in today's Instrumentum Laboris. With this text in hand, composed of the Relatio Synodi and by the contributions of the particular Churches, the Fathers are preparing to listen to the challenges faced by the family, to discern its vocation, and to announce its mission.
Composition of the Ordinary General Assembly
In accordance with the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum (Art. 5 § 1), the Ordinary General Assembly will be attended by the Heads of the sui iuris Oriental Catholic Churches, the bishops elected by the Synod of Bishops and the Councils of the Hierarchy of the Oriental Catholic Churches, the bishops elected by the Episcopal Conferences, ten religious elected by the Union of Superiors General and the heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia. In addition, the Holy Father also appoints some Members, in accordance with the same Synod regulations (Art. 5 § 4).
A total of 270 Synod Fathers will participate in this Assembly. They are divided into the following three categories: 42 ex officio, 183 ex electione and 45 ex nominatione pontificia. The Fathers originate from the five continents, as follows: 54 from Africa, 64 from America, 36 from Asia, 107 from Europe and 9 from Oceania.
The Members ex officio comprise the heads of the 15 Synods of Bishops of the sui iuris Oriental Catholic Churches; 25 heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia; the general secretary and the under Secretary.
The 270 Synod Fathers include: 74 cardinals (including one cardinal Patriarch and 2 major archbishops), six Patriarchs, one major archbishop, 72 archbishops (including three titular), 102 bishops (including six auxiliaries, three apostolic vicars and one emeritus), two parish priests and 13 religious. In addition, other invitees from different cultures and nations will take part in this Synod Assembly (cf. Art. 7 Ordo Synodi): 24 experts and collaborators of the Special Secretary, 51 auditors and 14 fraternal delegates. Noteworthy is the fact that, since this is an Assembly dedicated to the family, particular importance is given to spouses, parents and family heads, of whom a total of 18 are present (17 auditors and one among the experts). Finally, we are pleased to welcome the fraternal delegates who, as representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities, certainly share with the Catholic Church a concern for evangelisation and the pastoral care of families in today's world.
Starting from the experience gained during the Third Extraordinary General Assembly last October and taking into account various suggestions have come from many sides, especially by the Synod Fathers, the General Secretariat of the Synod has developed a new methodology to apply the Ordinary General Assembly, approved by the Holy Father at the meeting of the Ordinary Council of the Secretariat on 25-26 May 2015.
Given the methodology of the previous synods, the majority of the Fathers suggested that the General Assembly is made more dynamic and participatory through the distribution of interventions among the individual members at different times, enabling more attention to be devoted each contribution. In addition, the Fathers requested the enhancement of the work in the Circuli Minores, where there is more active participation in the discussion, more direct and immediate connection between the Fathers in their own language, and in which the auditors and fraternal delegates can intervene.
The result of the first Synod phase, devloped during the last Extraordinary General Assembly, was the Relatio Synodi, which became, together with an attached series of questions, the Lineamenta of the Ordinary General Assembly presented to the particular Churches and to all other entitled persons. The Instrumentum Laboris, resulting from the composition of the Relatio Synodi and the answers related to it, it is the foundational document of this Synod Assembly.
In the opening session, the President Delegate will greet the Holy Father, who will open the meeting. This will be followed by reports from the General Secretary and the General Rapporteur. The General Rapporteur will then present the themes of the First Part (“Listening to the challenges to the family”; cf. Instrumentum Laboris Nos. 6-36). After the testimony of a married couple (auditors), the interventions of the Synod Fathers in the General Congregations, will begin. Their contribution constitutes a development of the basic text.
This will be followed by the sessions of the Circuli minori, in which the Fathers reflect on the basic text supplemented by the contributions made in the assembly hall, in order to develop the “ways” in which the text continues to mature. At the end of the sessions, the rapporteur from each Circulo presents a brief report of their work and indicates the supplements to be inserted in the base text. The reports of the Working Groups will be made public.
The same process is repeated for the Second Part (“The discernment of the vocation of the family”; cf. Instrumentum Laboris Nos. 37-68) and the Third Party (“The mission of the family today”; cf. Instrumentum Laboris Nos. 69 -147), during the following two weeks.
The Commission for the Elaboration of the Final Report, appointed by the Holy Father, in which all five continents are represented, consists of: Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest (Hungary), Rapporteur General; the General Secretary; Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto (Italy); Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay (India); Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington (United States of America); Cardinal John Atcherley Dew, archbishop of Wellington (New Zealand); Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (Argentina); Bishop Mathieu Madega Lebouakehan of Mouila (Gabon); Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano (Italy); Father Adolfo Nicolas Pachon, superior general of the Society of Jesus, representing the Union of Superiors General.
The Commission has the duty of following each stage of the project; therefore, it meets at the end of the work on each part and in drafting the final document. At the end of the three stages of work, the Commission oversees preparation of the draft of the Final Report, to be presented in plenary session. Bearing in mind that this project is the composition of three texts that have already been received in the Circuli minores – whose reports were read in plenary and published – further interventions must be advanced with regard to the collective work conducted so far.
Subsequently, the above Commission oversees the preparation of the final text of the Relatio finalis, to be presented on the morning of Saturday 24 October in plenary session and submitted for approval to the Assembly in the afternoon.
In accordance with the nature of the Synod, this document, the result of the collective work of the Fathers (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 343), will be consigned to the Holy Father (cf. Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, Art. 23 § 4), who is responsible for decisions.
4) Given the large number of those entitled to speak (318 Fathers, the fraternal delegates and auditors) and the extra space reserved for Circuli minores (13 sessions), each speaker has the right to speak in the House for three minutes and to intervene extensively in the Circuli. As in the past, the General Congregations are granted one hour each, dedicated to free interventions by the Fathers. In addition, it is always possible to submit other written texts to the General Secretariat, in addition to the texts in paper and electronic formats presented in the Assembly Hall.
5) Considering that media communication and information during the last Extraordinary General Assembly was abundant and comprehensive, the same methods will also be used in relation to this General Assembly. In this regard, it is essential to bear in mind the basic criterion mentioned by the Holy Father on a number of occasions: the Synod must be a safe space so that the Holy Spirit can act and so that the Fathers have the freedom to express themselves with parresia.
During the three weeks, the briefing will be maintained as the basis for providing information; it will however be expanded, with a greater presence of the Synod Fathers, and using all available means of communication. The Fathers are free to communicate with the media at their own discretion and responsibility. The various stages in the development of the basic document remain confidential, since during the synodal process, the texts are subject to continuous developments right up to the final draft. However, the reports of the Circuli minori on the three aspects of the work of the Synod will be published. A special Commission, together with the Holy See Press Office, will as usual be responsible for providing information on the Synod.
On Saturday 17 October from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm, the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Synod of Bishops will take place in the Paul VI Hall. The event is open to all who wish to participate, as well as those attending the Synod. In the mind of Blessed Paul VI, who instituted it on 15 September 1965, the Synod was intended to perpetuate the spirit of Vatican Council II in the Church, so that even after its conclusion, it would continue to receive that 'great abundance of benefits that we have been so happy to see flow to the Christian people during the time of the Council as a result of Our close collaboration with the bishops'.
After the introduction by the General Secretary, the commemorative report will be entrusted to Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna and president of the Episcopal Conference of Austria. There will then be communications from five prelates representing all continents (Cardinal Gerald Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster and president of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales, for Europe; Archbishop Francisco Chimoio of Maputo, for Africa; Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, archbishop of Santiago del Chile and president of the Episcopal Conference of Chile, for the Americas; His Beatitude Raphael I Louis Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, and Head of the Synod of the Chaldean Church, for Asia; and Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, bishop of Tonga and president of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific, for Oceania). Lastly, the Holy Father will give the concluding address.
On Sunday 18 October at 10:30 am in the Vatican Basilica, there will be a Mass for the canonisation of, among others, the Blessed spouses Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guérin, parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus.
In the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, the People of God are invited to accompany with prayer the work of the Synod, invoking the protection of the Salus Populi Romani and the Blessed Martin couple, whose relics are exhibited there. Every day the Holy Rosary will be recited at 5 p.m. and Mass will be celebrated at 6. In the first week we will pray for children, in the second for parents, and for grandparents in the third.
Near the Synod Hall there will be, as usual, a chapel for prayer for the participants in the Synod, where the relics of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, her parents and the Beltrame Quattrocchi spouses will be displayed”.