1. What's a Synod?
The Synod of Bishops is an ecclesiastical (Church) body established by Pope Paul VI after the Second Vatican Council in 1965. It was set up to foster “the unity and cooperation of bishops around the world with the Holy See.” Synods of Bishops meet at the request of the Holy Father, when he considers it necessary or opportune to consult with the world’s bishops on topics that pertain to the entire Church; these kinds of sessions can be either Ordinary or Extraordinary. The Synod of Bishops can also meet in a Special Assembly (or Session) on topics that pertain to a limited geographical area.
2. Who's head of the Synod?
The President of the Synod is the current Holy Father, Pope Francis. The Synod also has a General Secretary, who is currently Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri. Check out the Witness Interview with Cardinal Baldisseri
3. Who takes part in the Synod?
Several hundred bishops participate in the synod, elected by the bishops’ conferences of each country. Other participants include the heads of Eastern Catholic Churches, members of religious institutes, cardinals who head Vatican offices and special papal appointees. Although they have no voting role, lay men and women are often participants too. For example, during the recent synod on the family, there were 18 married couples.This synod will include young men and women from around the world, including Emilie Callan and Julian Paparella from Salt + Light.
4. What’s the purpose of a Synod? What's its goal?
Synods are not parliaments where in order to reach a consensus, participants (Synod Fathers and delegates) start to negotiate, making deals and compromises. The only method in the synod is to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and to arrive at a real consensus inspired by the Holy Spirit.
5. What’s the theme of the Synod?
Pope Francis chose as the October 2018 Ordinary Synod topic: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” The Pope has clearly stated that the entire Church wants to listen to young people: to what they are thinking, to what they want, to what they criticize and to what they are sorry for. Everything. The Pope wants the Church to examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective way to announce the Good News today.
6. Where does the Synod take place?
The Synod takes place in the Synod Hall located above the Paul VI Audience Hall inside Vatican City. It begins with an opening mass in St. Peter’s Basilica followed by 3 weeks of formal sessions that involve attentive listening to individual “interventions” (short presentations) of each bishop and appointed delegate and hours spent in small working groups in the official languages of the Synod: English, Italian, Spanish, French and German. It ends with a big, concluding mass.
7. How do we get ready for the Synod on Youth?
There are several documents that we should read in order to understand what will be happening at the synod.
To prepare for the October 2018 Synod, Pope Francis wrote a Letter to Young People, dated January 13, 2017. In that letter he recommended that young people read the Preparatory Document as an effective tool in its preparation. The letter also contains some very good reflection questions for young people around the world. Pope Francis refers to this document as a “compass” in the journey leading up to the synod.
On June 19, 2018, the Instrumentum laboris
(Working document) for the synod was released. This is the document that the bishops will use to guide their discussions. It brings together the fruit of surveys, discussions from the pre-synod meeting, and concerns voiced by bishops’ conferences. It also identifies the specific topics that the bishops will address.
8. What does “youth” mean? What is the age group? Youth of any particular states of life?
The Synod will focus on youth between the ages of 16-29, and will be aimed at this particular age group and their pastoral needs. When speaking of the states of life and the vocational journey of young people towards them, “vocation” means the pathway to marriage, ordained ministry, and consecrated life.
9. What are the Pope’s concerns for youth today?
One of the most important questions that Pope Francis asks is: How can young people resist these two extremes of being against the Church or living without the Church but choosing to be within the Church, actively participating in her life? How can they seek and find God in the people, events and experiences which they encounter and embark on a communal and mutual path of human, spiritual and cultural growth?
10. What are some of the key words of the Pope’s Letter to Young People?
Three key words guide young people in their own discernment: “to recognize”, “to interpret” and “to choose.” These three verbs summarize the essence of “vocational discernment.” “To recognize” is to look within oneself; “to interpret” is to see what is both positive and negative; “to choose” is to make a decision for the good.
11. Are there any desired goals for this unique Synod on Youth?
Three other verbs are also key to the theme of this Synod: “to go out”, “to see,” and “to call.” “To go out” is to abandon a “mentality” which pigeonholes people; “to see” is to spend time with young people so as to hear their personal stories; and “to call” is to reawaken desires, to free people from what might hold them captive and to ask questions which have no ready-made answers.
12. Is this Synod for a select group of young people or for all youth?
The Synod is meant to be the Synod for all young people. Pope Francis has said: “Even young people who consider themselves agnostics; whose faith is lukewarm; who no longer go to Church. Even young people who consider themselves atheists. …This is the Synod of young people and we want to listen to one another. Every young person has something to say to others. He or she has something to say to adults, something to say to priests, sisters, bishops and even the Pope. All of us need to listen to you!”