What is a Synod?
“In the first millennium, ‘journeying together’—that is, practicing synodality— was the ordinary way in which the Church, understood as ‘People united in the unity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ acted” (Preparator Document, 11)
When there was disagreement and division in the early Church, bishops gathered to listen and discern the path forward.
These were the first synods which developed at all levels of the Church—local, regional, and universal.
St. John Chrysostom said that “Church and Synod are synonymous.” (Preparatory Document, 11).
Synodality has thus marked the Church from her very beginning and has been expressed in various ways, as the style of the Church’s life and mission, as particular structures and processes, or through decisive events.
In the West, “synod” and “council” became synonymous, and Ecumenical Councils are the most authoritative expressions of formal synodal gatherings, always in communion with and under the authority of the Pope.
In 1965, Pope St. Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops as a permanent institution of the Catholic Church, setting the stage for the renewed understanding of synodality being emphasized and explored today.
- Archdiocese of Atlanta, October, 2021