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Apostolica Sollicitudo-Paul VI on Synod of Bishops

APOSTOLICA SOLLICITUDO
15 September, 1965

Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio

by Pope Paul VI
establishing the Synod of Bishops for the Universal Church

 

The Second Vatican Council emphasized episcopal "collegiality."  In other words, the successors of the apostles working together closely with the Successor of Peter to teach and pastor the universal Church togehter.  Vatican II itself was a great experience and expression of collegiality.  But Ecumenical Councils happen only rarely.  To provide frequent, regular opportunity for bishops to meet with the Pope and discuss together the pastoral and doctrinal issues facing the Church, Pope Paul VI instituted the "Synod of Bishops" as a permanent, representative body of bishops who would meet regularly every three years plus meet in special and extraordinary sessions as the Pope should see fit.  "Synod" comes from the Greek words meaning where roads come together or "Crossroads."  What follows is the text of Pope Paul VI's Motu Proprio letter creating the Synod of Bishops.

 

 

The Apostolic concern leading Us to carefully survey the signs of the times and to make every effort to adapt the means and methods of the holy apostolate to the changing circumstances and needs of our day, impels us to establish even closeer ties with the bishops in order to strengthen Our union with them "whom the Holy Spirit has placed to rule the Church of God."1 We are led to this not merely by the reverence, esteem and sense of gratitude that We rightly feel toward all Our Venerable Brothers in the episcopate, but also by the very heavy responsibility that has been laid upon Us as universal Shephered, a responsibility that obliges Us to lead the People of God to eternal pastures. For daily experience has taught Us how helpful this kind of union will be to carrying out Our apostolic office in this age that is so upset and full of division and yet so open to the salutary inspiration of God's grace; We intend to use every means available to Us to promote and foster it. "Thus", as We have said elsewhere, "We will not lack the consolation of their presence, the help of their vision and experience, the support of their counsel, and the voice of their authority."2

 

Decision sprang from Council

Hence it is only fitting, especially during the celebration of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, that this convictgion has taken firm root in Us concerning the necessity and importance of making every greater use of the bishops' assistance in providing for the good of the universal Church. It was also the Ecumenical Council that gave Us the idea of permanently establishing a special council of bishops, with the aim of providing for a continuance after the Council of the great abundance of benefits that We have been so happy to see flow to the Christian faithful during the time of the Council as a result of Our close collaboration with the bishops.

Now that the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican is drawing to a close, We feel the time has come to put this decision, long since made, into effect; and We are all the more happy to do so because of Our certain knowledge that the bishops of the Catholic world are in favour of this step; this is clear from the many views expressed in this regard in the Ecumenical Council.

Formula of Establishment

And so, after carefully considering the whole matter, because of Our esteem and regard for all the Catholic bishops and with the aim of providing them with abundant means for greater and more effective participation in Our concern for the universal Church, on our own initiative and by Our apostolic authority, We hereby erect and establish here in Rome a permanent council of bishops for the universal Church, to be directly and immediately subject o Our power. Its proper name be the Synod of Bishops.

This Synod, which, like all human institutions, can be improved upon with the passing of time, is to be governed by the following regulations:

I

The Synod of Bishops, whereby bishops chosen from various parts of the world are to offer more effective assistance to the supreme Shepherd, is to be constituted in such a way that it is:

a) a central eccesiastical institution
b) representing the whole Catholic episcopate
c) of its nature perpetual
d) as for structure, carrying out its functions for a time and when called upon.

 

II

The Synod of Bishops has, of its nature, the function of providing information and offering advice. It can also enjoy the power of making decisions when such power is conferred upon it by the Roman Pontiff; in this case, it belongs to him to ratify the decisions of the Synod.

1. The general purposes of the Synod are:

a) to promote a closer union and greater cooperation between the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops of the whole world;
b) to see to it that accurate and direct information is supplied on matters and situations that bear upon the internal life of the Church and upon the kind of action that it should be carrying on in today's world;
c) to facilitate agreement, at least, on essential matters of doctrine and on the course of action to be taken in the life of the Church.

 

2. Its special and immediate purposes are:

a) to provide mutually useful information
b) to discuss the specific business for which the Synod is called into session on any given occasion.

 

The Synod of Bishops is directly and immediately subject to the authority of the Roman Pontiff, to whom it therefore belongs:

1) to call the Synod into session whenever he feels this will be adisable and designate the place where the meetings are to be held;
2) to ratify the election of member describe in articles V and VIII
3) to determine matters for discussion at least six months before the Synod is to meet, if that be possible;
4) to see to it that the material to be discussed is sent to those who ought to be concerned about the discussion of these matters;
5) to set the agenda
6) to preside over the Synod personally or through someone else.

 

IV

The Synod of Bishops can meet in general session, in extraordinary session and in special session.

V

The Synod of Bishops meeting in general session will primarily and as a general rule be made up of:

1. a) the patriarchs, major archbishops and metropolitans outside of a patriarch of the Catholic Churches of Eastern rite;
b) the bishops elected by individual national episcopal conferences, in accordance with the regulations in article VIII;
c) the bishops elected by the episcopal conferences which have been established for a number of nations that do not have their on individual conference, in accordance with the regulations in article VIII;
d) along with these, ten religious chosen by the Roman Union of Superiors General to represent the clerical religious institutes.

 

2. The cardinals who head offices of the Roman Curia will also attend the general sessions of the Synod of Bishops.

VI

The Synod of Bishops in extraordinary session will be made up of:

1. a) the patriarchs, major archbishops and metropolitans outside of a patriarch of the Catholic Churches of Eastern rite;
b) the presidents of national episcopal conferences;
c) the presidents of episcopal conferences which have been established for a number of nations that do not have their own individual conferences;
d) three religious chosen by the Roman Union of Superiors General to represent the clerical religious institutes

 

2. The cardinals who head offices of the Roman Curia will also attend the exdtraordinary sessions of the Synod of Bishops.

VII

The Synod of Bishops meeting in special session will be made up of the patriarchs, major archbishops and metropolitans outside of a patriarchate of the Catholic Churches of Eastern rite, as well as of those who represent either the episcopal conferences or one or a member of nations or the religious institutes, as has been established in article V and article VIII, but in this case all of them are to belong to the region for which the Synod of Bishops is being convoked.

VIII

This bishops who will represent individual national conferences are to be chosen in this manner:

a) one for each national episcopal conference that has 25 members or less;
b) two for each national episcopal conference of no more than 50 members;
c) three for each national episcopal conference that has more than 100 members

The episcopal conferences that take in a number of nations will choose their representatives on the same basis.

IX

In choosing those who are to represent the episcopal conference of one or a member of nations and the religious institutes in the Synod of Bishops, great attention should be paid not just to the general knowledge and wisdom of individuals but also to their theoretical and practical knowledge of the matter that the Synod is to take up.

X

The Supreme Pontiff may, if he so chooses, increase the number of members of the Synod of Bishops by adding bishops, or religious to represent the religious institutes, or clerics who are experts, to the extent of fifteen percent of the total number of the members mentioned in articles V and VIII.

XI

When the session for which the Synod of Bishops has been summoned is over, the persons making up the Synod lose their office by that very fact, and the same is true of any individual members who have had some special role or function.

XII

The Synod of Bishops is to have a permanent secretary-general, with a suitable number of assistants assigned to him. In addition, any session of the Synod of Bishops is to have a special secretary of its own who remains in office till the end of the session.

Both the secretary-general and the special secretaries are to be named by the Supreme Pontiff.

We decree and establish all this, anything to the contrary not withstanding.

Given at St. Peters, Rome, on the fifteenth day of September in the year 1965, the third of Our Pontificate.

Pope Paul VI

________________

1.Acts 20, 28
2.Pope Paul VI's discourse to the Counci Fathers, III Session, A.A.S. 56 (1965), p. 1010.

 

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