I have seen and I have heard, with joy and appreciation, speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage
III Extraordinary General AssemblyOn 8 October 2013 The Holy See Press Office announced that Pope Francis had convened a III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in the Vatican from 5 to 19 October 2014, on the theme the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of Evangelisation. This would be followed by an Ordinary General Assembly in October 2015, on the same topic.
At a press conference on 5 November 2013 Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, said that the Synod was a 'work itinerary in two phases'. The first phase was intended to 'gather testimonies and proposals from the bishops to proclaim and credibly live the Gospel for the family' and the second phase would seek to find 'working approaches for the pastoral care of the human person and the family.'
The Consultation PhaseIn October 2013 Cardinal Baldisseri wrote to the heads of the world’s episcopal conferences requesting that the preparatory document (lineamenta) for the III Extraordinary General Assembly be distributed as widely as possible to dioceses, deaneries and parishes, to facilitate input from local sources. Families across England and Wales welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the consultation although the complexity of the consultation questionnaire and the time scale given for its completion were found to be very challenging. 16,500 responses to the consultation were received by dioceses via email, post or through online response forms.
In accordance with the wishes of the Holy See, the summary of the responses sent to the Synod of Bishops remained confidential. However analysis of 12,266 online responses indicated that 80% of respondents were laity, 69% were married and 38% were parents. 20% of respondents were in positions of responsibility within the Church as priests, chaplains, catechists, teachers, deacons, seminarians, or pastoral assistants. At least 6% were active in voluntary roles as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, readers, musicians, governors of schools, members of diocesan commissions, parish councils or as members of parish organisations. Nearly 1% of respondents identified themselves as either a lapsed Catholic or a non-Catholic.
Reflecting on the Synod ExperienceThe extensive material submitted to Rome from across the globe was published in a working document (Instrumentum Laboris) for the III Extraordinary General Assembly in June 2014. Cardinal Vincent Nichols was one of 150 Synod Fathers who took part in the Synod in Rome. In the following video clip he reflects on his experience.
The Period Between the SynodsA report (Relatio Synodi) of the III Extraordinary General Assembly formed the basis of the preparatory document for the XIV Ordinary General Assembly and was sent to the world's episcopal conferences in December 2014, containing points of view to be developed and clarified through reflection in the local Churches in the intervening year. During his address at the conclusion of the III Extraordinary General Assembly Pope Francis expressed his wishes for the period between the two Synods:
“Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families. One year to work on the 'Synodal Relatio' which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups." 18 Oct 2014