Posted on: 2014-09-26

What and When is the Synod?

Come October 2014, there will be a Synod on the Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization. It will be held in Rome and be properly referred to as the III EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY (a Synod of Bishops convoked for very special and urgent reasons). And as the theme suggests it will be centered on how to evangelize the family and how to make the family retain her evangelizing character amidst the challenges of a fast changing world as regards norms and values. The hope is that the forthcoming III EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY in October 2014 will deliberate well enough to prepare the grounds for an ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY (a more usual kind of Synod which gives room for more participation of more bishops), which will hold in October 2015. The Instrumentum Laboris (the Working Document) for the Synod expresses it in this manner, "The Holy Father has determined that the work of Synod of Bishops is to take place in two stages, forming a single organic unity. In the III Extraordinary General Assembly in 2014, the synod fathers will thoroughly examine and analyze the information, testimonies and recommendations received from the particular Churches in order to respond to the new challenges of the family. The Ordinary General Assembly in 2015, representing a great part of the episcopate and continuing the work of the previous synod, will reflect further on the points discussed so as to formulate appropriate pastoral guidelines."


Why the Synod?

The Church has always reminded her children not to lose sight of the fact that the family which is the smallest cell of the society is also even more importantly the first community where the basis of the faith can be taught and imbibed. This of course takes after the example of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. However, the growing threats of the new trends in human life, human culture and civilization today pose great challenge to the meaning and existence of marriage and family life. It is no news, how new unions today have emerged and how they have been sanctioned by some civil laws as valid, redefining the meaning of marriage and the expression of family life. Varying distortions erupt almost on daily basis, which make it increasingly difficult to understand the Gospel of the Family, Openness to Life and the Demands of Responsible Parental Upbringing. Yet the Church, faithful to the command of The Lord has a duty not only to teach, but to minister to all men and women. This is the reason why Pope Francis on the 8th October 2013 convoked the Synod.


What are the Preparations for the Synod?

Since its announcement by the Pope, the Lineamenta (Outline Document) has been compiled and sent to the bishops all over the world so as to discuss with the lay faithful even at the grassroots, to raise points for discussion and areas which need to be touched at the Synod and to give suggestions on possible points for action. It is with the various responses received that the Instrumentum Laboris (Working Document) was prepared. It is important to note that the Lineamenta and the Instrumentum Laboris are prepared in this manner for every Synod so as to help the Bishops who will gather to discuss and suggest ways forward to the Pope in his duty as leader and shepherd. The forthcoming synod will however be like a continuation of the last one held in 2012 which discussed the New Evangelization and the Transmission of the Christian Faith. The Lineamenta expresses it that, "This proclamation of the Gospel of the Family takes place in continuity with the synodal assembly on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith and the Year of Faith, announced by Pope Benedict XVI."


What should be our response?

Our response ought to be to educate ourselves adequately with the proposed discussions for the Synod, so that we can be well placed for the work of evangelization using the directions which will come out of the synod. At the parish level, discussions can be held among different groups. We should revisit the discussions and the proposals made at the 2014 Oyo Diocesan Pastoral Seminar. Attention should be given to our youths, by organizing well-designed programs for them as regards relationship, marriage and family life, both on church level and diocesan level. Those preparing for marriage cannot be left out, married couples too should be involved in the activities. Evangelization as our primary duty as Christians should begin from the family. And believing that the Synod will emerge pastorally practicable measures, we stand a better chance if we start to prepare ourselves now.