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Summary of Synod Assemblies 1967-1980

Including the Dutch Gathering

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 6, 2005 (Zenit) - With the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops under way, Catholic Online is publishing in these days a summary of the past synodal assemblies.

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1. I Ordinary General Assembly

In session: Sept. 29-Oct. 29, 1967

Synod Fathers: 197

Topic: "The Preservation and Strengthening of the Catholic Faith, its Integrity, its Force, its Development, its Doctrinal and Historical Coherence"

Pope Paul VI stated the goals for this first General Assembly: "the preservation and the strengthening of the Catholic faith, its integrity, its force, its development, its doctrinal and historical coherence." One result of the meeting was a recommendation by the bishops to set up an international commission of theologians to assist the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as well as to broaden a discussion on approaches to theological research. In 1969 Pope Paul VI established the International Theological Commission.

The Synod also called for a revision of the Code of Canon Law of 1917 in an attempt to make it more pastoral and more contemporary in tone and emphasis. The work was subsequently begun by Pope Paul VI and brought to completion under Pope John Paul II with the promulgation, in 1983, of the Revised Code of Canon Law.

Other pastoral questions were discussed and submitted to the Pope as recommendations: that episcopal conferences should have major control over seminaries in their respective areas; procedures relating to mixed marriages were recommended and approved by the Pope in 1970; and approval was given for the New Order of the Mass which was put into effect in 1969.

2. I Extraordinary General Assembly

In session: Oct. 11-28, 1969

Synod Fathers: 146

Topic: "The Cooperation between the Holy See and the Episcopal Conferences"

This specially convoked General Assembly had as its agenda to seek and examine ways and means of putting into practice the collegiality of bishops with the Pope, a subject which gained much attention in the declarations on the Church formulated at the Second Vatican Council. This meeting opened the door to wider participation by the bishops with the Pope and each other in the pastoral care of the universal Church.

The main emphasis of these sessions involved two basic points: 1) the collegiality of the bishops with the Pope; and 2) the relation of episcopal conferences to the Pope and to individual bishops.

Various recommendations were subsequently submitted to the Pope, three of which received immediate attention: 1) that the synod meet at regular intervals, every two years (subsequently changed to every three years); 2) that the General Secretariat operate between synodal sessions and organize these meeting; 3) that the bishops be permitted to suggest topics for the future assemblies.

Between the second and third synodal assemblies, an advisory council for the General Secretariat was formed made up of 12 elected bishops and three papal appointees.

Such a council first met from May 12-15, 1970, and was intended to facilitate communication with episcopal conferences and the formulation of the agenda for the subsequent assembly. After this meeting a general consultation of the bishops worldwide was begun for suggested topics for future assemblies.

Such consultation now begins in the final days of a synodal assembly. Since that time the council of the General Secretariat, elected from each synod in light of preparation for the following synod, has become a permanent feature of the General Secretariat.

3. II Ordinary General Assembly

In session: Sept. 30-Nov. 6, 1971 (longest to date)

Synod Fathers: 210

Topic: "The Ministerial Priesthood and Justice in the World"

In the course of their discussion the Synod Fathers praised priests worldwide for their dedication in their ministry to Word and sacrament as well as their pastoral work in the apostolate. At the same time, attention was given to various difficulties experienced by priests in the ministry.

In addition, the Synod Fathers treated the subject of justice, stating the need to relate the Gospel to existing worldwide and local circumstances. In response they outlined an eight-point program for international action, and made recommendations that the Church on the local level foster education and ecumenical collaboration in the field of justice.

4. III Ordinary General Assembly

In Session: Sept. 27-Oct. 26, 1974

Synod Fathers: 209

Topic: "Evangelization in the Modern World"

At this assembly the Synod Fathers re-emphasized the essential missionary character of the Church and the duty of each member to bear witness to Christ in ...

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