The term is generally understood to refer to a process of discernment, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, involving bishops, priests, religious, and lay Catholics, each according to the gifts and charisms of their vocation.
The Synod of Bishops was established in 1965 by Pope Paul VI, who hoped that the synod would encourage close union between the pope and the world’s bishops, and “ensure that direct and real information is provided on questions and situations touching upon the internal action of the Church and its necessary activity in the world of today.”
Ordinary synods happen every three years on issues voted upon by synod delegates elected or appointed from each continent, and from certain Vatican offices. There have been 15 ordinary synods to date. There are also extraordinary synods and special synods.
The synod that took place in October 2019 was a special Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region. Following that synod, the pope stressed that “synodality is an ecclesial journey that has a soul that is the Holy Spirit.”
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The Vatican first announced the Synod of Bishops on synodality in March 2020.
For this upcoming synod, Cardinal Grech said that the General Secretariat wanted “to allow everyone to make his or her voice heard, that listening is the true ‘pastoral conversion’ of the Church.”
“God willing, one of the fruits of the Synod is that we might all understand that a decision-making process in the Church always begins with listening, because only in this way can we understand how and where the Spirit wants to lead the Church.”
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.