Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Synod of Bishops?
The Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution of the Catholic Church. It was established by Pope Paul VI in 1965, shortly after the close of the Second Vatican Council, to continue the spirit of collegiality and communion that was present at the Council. The Synod is an assembly of bishops from around the world who assist the Holy Father by providing counsel on important questions facing the Church in a manner that preserves the Church's teaching and strengthens her internal discipline (see the Vatican website and Code of Canon Law., canon 342).
More recently, the Synod has involved an increasing amount of consultation beyond the bishops involved, and has been intentional about inviting ordained, consecrated religious, and lay men and women to the dialogues that precede the Synod of Bishops and are present (and active) in the Synod Hall during the proceedings.
For additional details regarding the 2018 Synod, please view Understanding the Journey.
Who represented the USA at the 2018 Synod?
The United States was represented by bishop delegates and ordained and lay leaders from across the United States. The bishop delegates at the XV Synod in 2018 were:
- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, then-President of the USCCB
- Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archdiocese of Chicago
- Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life in Rome
- Archbishop José H. Gomez, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, then-Vice President of the USCCB (current USCCB President)
- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archdiocese of Philadelphia, then-Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth
- Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Diocese of Bridgeport, then-member of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth (current member of the USCCB Bishops Working Group on Youth and Young Adults)
- Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, then-Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis
- Archbishop William C. Skurla, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh
- Bishop A. Elias Zaidan, Eparch of the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon in Los Angeles (current member of the USCCB Bishops Working Group on Youth and Young Adults)
Ordained, consecrated religious, and lay leaders (including several young adults) were also present at the Synod as auditors, observers, and in supporting roles, accompanied by the staff of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from Washington DC.
What was discussed at the Synod 2018?
The focus for the 2018 Synod was "Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment." Discussion topics emerged from the XV Synod Preparatory Document, the Pre-Synodal Meeting Final Document, and the Instrumentum Laboris (working document). The Vatican's official Synod website also has more information on the topics and issues discussed through the synodal process.
The Final Document of the Synod of Bishops contains a summary of the content shared in the XV Synod in October 2018.
What's an apostolic exhortation?
An apostolic exhortation is a magisterial teaching document, written by the pope. In many cases (and was the case for Christus Vivit), they follow a Synod of Bishops and the preparatory synodal consultation process. In those instances, the pope uses the input received from that process to inform or illuminate his teaching on a particular pastoral topic.
It should be noted that exhortations are not encyclicals or formal addresses given by popes. However, they are important teachings that should guide the Church on the national, diocesan, and parish level in the application and implementation of that pastoral area or topic.
Who is Christus Vivit addressed to?
Pope Francis addressed his exhortation Christus Vivit "to all Christian young people" and "to the entire People of God, pastors and faithful alike, since all of us are challenged and urged to reflect both on the young and for the young" (CV 3). Its audience, then, is very broad.
The document has certain sections specifically addressed to youth and young adults, while in other areas, the pope is speaking to pastoral leaders in the Church and to all adults (over 40) in how they relate to young people. Therefore, the document can be used and understood by almost everyone.
What is meant by "young people"?
The term "young people," as defined by the Synod and in Christus Vivit, are those ages 16 to 30, which includes youth (adolescents) and young adults (collegians and above). While the term "youth" is used on several texts for the XV Synod, this should be interpreted as both youth and young adults (the preferred terms in use by the Catholic Church in the United States).
What is meant by "vocations"?
According to the Synod, "vocations" is one's calling in life, and includes marriage, consecrated life, and ordained priesthood, and in a broader sense, also focuses on the discernment of all life choices in youth and young adulthood. Pope Francis' post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit notes, "your vocation is... a path guiding your many efforts and actions toward service to others" (CV 255) and "as a call to missionary service to others... to share in (the Lord's) work of creation and to contribute to the common good by using the gifts we have received." (CV 253)
Why is a 2018 Synod and 2019 document still important?
The 2018 "event" was actually a long process that began with the nucleus of an idea in 2016, involved worldwide consultation in 2017 and 2018 (complemented with several synodal processes taking place in the United States at that same time, i.e., the National Dialogue and V Encuentro), resulted in an apostolic exhortation (Christus Vivit) in 2019, and continues to be unpacked to this very day.
Both the Synod and Christus Vivit are significant because they were extensive and Holy Spirit-led reflections on the realities facing youth and young adults around the world, and engaged active Catholics and those who remain disaffiliated from the practice of the faith. This synodal process was able to capture a snapshot of the global situation and resulted in the Church's landmark document on young people, Christus Vivit, with a theology and spirituality that will continue to inform and direct the Catholic Church's approach to youth and young adults in parishes, dioceses, and communities for years to come.
While the 2018 Synod and 2019's Christus Vivit were indeed moments in time, tjeir impact will be felt by the Church on the global and local levels for generations. It also gave the Church a template/model of how to engage in fruitful synodal listening and dialogue, which is always ongoing.
How can I continue to be engaged?
The USCCB posted its Synod insights on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from October 2016 through to the end of 2019. Follow them at @USCCB, and search the hashtag #Synod2018. Catholic News Service also reported on the XV Synod and on Christus Vivit (see their coverage), as will other collaborators and media outlets.
If you wish to know more about or get a training session on Christus Vivit, contact the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth - in particular their staff serving the ministries for youth and young adults - at @email.
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