Preparing for the 2015 Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops: The vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world

Tuesday, February 10 2015

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has invited the dioceses of Canada to use a modified arrangement of the questions for the Lineamenta. This decision by our Permanent Council is to assist Canadian Bishops in their preparations for the 2015 Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on The vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world. The aim is to provide dioceses with a set of questions rephrased and rearranged in a way that more easily facilitates any consultations dioceses may undertake. The CCCB re-arrangement provides reference numbers (in square brackets) to the original version earlier published by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.

The background to the present Lineamenta is the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which met last year on The pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization. In order to make the 2014 Synod truly a preparation for the 2015 Synod, Pope Francis decided the final relatio (report) from the 2014 Synod become the Lineamenta for the 2015 Synod. Since the Extraordinary Synod had worked from the perspectives of “See, Judge, Act”, the CCCB Permanent Council agreed this would be a helpful way to focus and clarify the questions for the 2015 Synod. The changes by the CCCB, sometimes how questions are phrased, more often in how they are ordered, had three considerations in mind: 1) To make the consultation simpler and more readily accessible for diocesan use; 2) To help encourage concrete suggestions and the sharing of “best practices” for pastoral action; and 3) To elicit pertinent reflections on the reality and situation in each diocese.

When forwarding the Lineamenta questions, the Permanent Council invited dioceses in Canada:

1. To decide whom to consult in preparing their responses to the questions, whether pastors and other clergy, laity and special focus groups, married couples and families, diocesan or other experts in family life;
2. To decide whether any diocesan consultations would focus on certain questions only;
3. To respond to an “open question” at the end of each of the four major sections in order to add other points or comments;
4. To forward to the CCCB any responses or comments they may receive on the Lineamenta which are not part of the diocesan consultation process, so the Conference in turn can forward these to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for its consideration.

In his 1965 Apostolic Letter instituting the present form of the Synod of Bishops, Blessed Pope Paul VI said the primary general purpose of every Synod is “to promote a closer union and greater cooperation between the Supreme Pontiff and the Bishops of the whole world” (Apostolica Sollicitudo, II,1,a). Since then, it has become evident that meetings of the Synod are also wonderful opportunities for all the Church to focus in prayerful reflection on current questions of importance. Responses to the Lineamenta are primarily a means for Bishops to share their insights and pastoral experiences with the Pope. Any consultation a Bishop may undertake can also be one approach to understanding how at least some of the faithful in the diocese see a particular question. More importantly, many Bishops use these consultations to assist the diocese in planning and shaping its own pastoral approach and ministry. The questions in the Lineamenta are thus not intended to serve as a kind of Catholic survey or poll, but instead are an invitation to reflect and discuss.

Given the general purpose of each Synod as well as of the questions that are part of the Lineamenta, the CCCB and Canadian dioceses will continue with the practice of not publishing the responses. Catholic individuals, groups and organizations are welcome to use the questions in the Lineamenta for their own reflection. Those wishing to share with the Bishops the results of such reflections are invited to forward these to their local Bishop. In turn, dioceses as well as national associations, movements or organizations are invited to send responses to the CCCB, so these in turn can then be forwarded to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.

In his Apostolic Letter, Blessed Pope Paul expressed the hope that the Synod of Bishops will be a sign and instrument of harmony and unity, of being “open to the salutary inspiration of God’s grace.” May our preparations for this Synod be assisted by the example of Mary the Mother of Our Lord, whom we honour as Our Lady of Good Counsel, and by the prayers and intercession of Blessed Paul VI and of Saint François de Laval, the first Bishop in Canada and one who focused so much of his pastoral ministry on the vocation and mission of the family.

Msgr. Patrick Powers, P.H.
General Secretary

February 10, 2015

Link to the CCCB re-arrangement of the Lineamenta questions (PDF) 

Link to the Lineamenta on the Holy See’s website