What you need to know about the Synod

On Sunday, Pope Francis convenes a special type of meeting of bishops — one held only two other times — meant to start a frank debate about the church’s teachings and practices with which Catholics seem to most disagree, struggle with and ignore: family, marriage and sexuality.

The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is to run for two weeks.

Its theme: “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family In the Context of Evangelization.”

Here are the basics:

Who: The meeting brings together 191 high-level clergy members from around the world, as well as 16 experts and 38 other laypeople who will speak to the bishops.

Most of the laypeople are married couples attending to talk about their experiences. One of the couples is Muslim-Catholic.

What: During the first week, everyone meets for four hours in the morning and three more in the afternoon. The second week, they will break into smaller groups.

What’s the end game? No big changes or announcements will come during these two weeks.

Pope Francis has simply opened the door for extremely frank dialogue about what is working and what isn’t when it comes to the way the church handles things ranging from families led by same-sex couples to divorce.

Next fall, the bishops will be back to lay out a pastoral plan. There may be a rough draft of proposals made public between then and now.

On Friday, Synod Secretary-General Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri told reporters that the meeting was called “to discuss a particularly urgent topic, using appropriate guidelines for the present time, for the good of the entire church. . . .The Christian perspective is based upon history and not ideology, and we find ourselves in an historical moment of change.” Continue reading


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