A Synod is a pathway to change

Enter into the spirit of the Synod on Synodality. Situate this event in the long tradition of synods in the Catholic Church. Feel the novelty through images that inspire prayer, fraternity, sharing and hope for the future.


If you’re even loosely acquainted with the Catholic Church you’ve probably heard the word “synod” and have an inkling that it’s an important event for Catholics worldwide. But what exactly IS a synod? Where did it come from, and why do so many people seem excited (or angry) about the “Synod on Synodality” currently happening in Rome?


The history of the synod goes back to 170 AD with the first recorded synodal gathering. Those early synods were mainly regional: used mainly to discuss and resolve practical matters of doctrine and policy. These types of synods gradually fell out of favor and didn’t regain prominence until 1965, when Pope Paul VI - at the start of the final session of the 2nd Vatican Council - created the “Synod of Bishops” as a permanent institution of the Church. The new synod, comprised of those elected by their peers to represent the different rites and regions within the Church - along with several who are appointed by the Holy Father - meets periodically to discuss issues of pastoral importance.


It should be noted that not all synods are the same. “Ordinary” synods meet every three years and revolve around a theme. “Extraordinary” synods are called by the Holy Father when he believes there are specific issues that need to be addressed with urgency. “Special” synods are the closest to the 2nd-century synod, comprised of representatives of regional churches and addressing regional issues.


Perhaps the most important synod of recent history would be the aforementioned Second Vatican Council: an ecumenical council which ran from 1962 to 1965 when the “Synod of Bishops” was created.


The reforms and renewal agreed upon during that synod are still being implemented to this day. More recently we’ve seen the “Synod on Young People” (2018) - which invited representatives of the youth from around the world to speak and discuss directly with the Synod and the Holy Father, the “Synod on the Family” (2014) - dedicated to the pastoral response to homosexuality, marriage, divorce and birth-control, and the “Amazon Synod” (2019) - which brought to the forefront the pastoral care of, and evangelization to those living in the Amazon.

This short list of synods provides a good representation of the issues that synods address, while also explaining why synods can bring out both excitement and anger.


... Synods bring change.


For some, that change is welcome and inspirational, for others it brings the fear of losing parts of their faith that they’ve held dear. Both of those emotions go hand-in-hand with most changes, not just a synod, but the fear can be amplified by doomsayers and pundits who prey on insecurity and anxiety by feeding the worst takes and assuming the least from our leaders.


The truth is that a synod is neither uncommon, nor something to be feared. The gathering of disparate voices, now more inclusive than ever, is our response to the movement of the Holy Spirit - to be as attentive as possible to the call of Christ to tend HIS flock according to our continually developing understanding of God, the Church and the individual.


In other words, a synod - and change - is proof that our Church is alive.

Synod 2021 - 2024

For a synodal Church:
communion, participation and mission.


Synodal-U Community

The Society of Jesus joins people from different corners of the world who want to walk together in their synodal formation.

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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