Within only one day of the announcement of Pope Paul VI’s intention to establish a synod of the world’s Catholic bishops, council Fathers were presented with full details of how the new body will work.
At the fourth session’s first working day, the Pope’s Apostolica Sollicitudo was read on the council floor, spelling out the details of the new body. It was greeted with a roar of applause by more than 2,000 bishops.
The document consists of an introduction and 12 articles which define its nature, its activities, its composition and requirements.
Paolo Cardinal Marella, president of the Commission on Bishops and the Government of Dioceses — under whose competence comes the schema in which it is suggested that the Pope form such a body — gave a brief introduction before the text of the motu proprio was read.
Cardinal Marella said the creation of the new body was the result of the universal desire for a central organization to bring the Pope into closer contact with the world’s bishops and their dioceses. He said it calls for creation of a general secretariat and offices.
Cardinal Marella stressed that the new body was permeated with the idea of the primacy of service and that it was designed to be useful but not to limit the bishops’ role in their individual dioceses nor to obviate the bishops’ right to appeal directly to Rome when they thought necessary.
The new synod will be a permanent body but its composition will change according to the needs of the particular moment. As it stands, its composition is of a fluid nature both in terms of membership and objective.
The motu proprio provides for three types of synods, depending on how the Pope considers the circumstances in which he wants to summon it to meet. Membership too will respond to the nature of the type of synod called, and membership lasts only as long as the particular synod lasts.
Cardinal Marella said it would be difficult to say how much careful and lengthy study had been put into creating the new organism and added that the motu proprio had been written by Pope Paul as “a brother speaking to brother bishops.”
James C. O’Neill
NCWC News correspondent