On the Role of Synods

"They Are a Coming Together"

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 5, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave before praying the midday Angelus today together with the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square. In the morning the Pope opened the world Synod of Bishops on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."



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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

This morning, with the celebration of Holy Mass in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the 12th General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was opened. The synod will be held at the Vatican and will take as its theme “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

You know the value and function of this particular assembly of bishops, chosen in such a way as to represent the whole episcopate and convoked to offer efficacious assistance to the Successor of Peter, manifesting and consolidating ecclesial communion at the same time. This is an important organism, instituted by my venerable predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, in his apostolic letter "Apostolica Sollicitudo," during the last phase of the Second Vatican Council, to realize a directive contained in the Council’s decree on the office of bishops, “Christus Dominus” (cf. No. 5).

The Synod of Bishops aims to foster close union and collaboration between the Pope and the bishops of the whole world, to furnish direct and exact information about the situation and problems of the Church, to foster an agreement on doctrine and pastoral action and to consider topics of great importance and contemporary relevance. These different tasks are coordinated by a permanent secretariat, which works in direct and immediate dependence on the authority of the Bishop of Rome.

Synods are constitutive of the Church: They are a coming together from every people and culture to be one in Christ; they are a walking together behind him who said: “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). In fact the Greek word “sýnodos,” composed of the preposition “syn,” that is, “with,” and “odòs,” which means “way, road,” suggests the idea of “taking the road together,” and this is precisely the experience of the people of God in salvation history.

I have chosen for the present ordinary synodal assembly -- having sought and received authoritative opinions on the matter -- to study in depth and from a pastoral perspective the word of God in the life and mission of the Church. There has been ample participation in the preparatory phase on the part of particular Churches throughout the world, who have sent their contributions to the Synod's secretariate, who drafted the “instrumentum laboris,” the document that will be considered by the 253 synod fathers: 51 from Africa, 62 from the Americas, 41 from Asia, 90 from Europe and 9 from Oceania. Numerous experts and auditors, men and women, “brother delegates” from the other Churches and ecclesial communities, and other special invitees will join them.

Dear brothers and sisters, I invite all of you to support the work of the synod with your prayer, especially invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, perfect disciple of the divine Word.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in several languages. In Italian, he said:]

This evening a television program entitled "Bibbia Giorno e Notte" [Bible Day and Night] will begin on Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI). This unique initiative will consist in the continuous reading of the Bible, for seven days and seven nights, from today until Saturday, Oct. 11. The site of the reading will be the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusaleme in Rome, and there will be nearly 1,200 readers, from 50 countries, some chosen in part with ecumenical criteria and many who signed up on their own.

This event is a fitting accompaniment to the Synod of Bishops on the word of God, and I myself will start the reading of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. This will be broadcast by RAI 1. The word of God can thus enter into homes to accompany the lives of families and single persons: a seed that, if properly welcomed, will not fail to bear abundant fruit.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Sunday Angelus prayer. In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks of his death at the hands of those who did not heed the voice of God and progressively closed their hearts to truth, justice and love. Let us pray with confidence that the Lord will guide our steps and grant us patience and constancy in doing God’s holy will! I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome, and a blessed Sunday!

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana