Opinion & Analysis

Letter from Rome

4:47 PM, October 1, 2018

Vatican City:Preparation for Synod assembly on young people was marked by far greater inclusion of non-bishops than previous gatherings.

Photo credit: synod2018.va

Pope Francis will convene the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Oct. 3, focusing on the theme "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment."

But there is nothing at all "ordinary" about this Oct. 3-28 gathering for a whole host of reasons. Not least is the fact that it's taking place at an extraordinary and particularly historic moment in the life of the Catholic Church.

There are reasons both trivial and epoch-making that distinguish this as an out of the ordinary gathering. For example, it will be only the sixth time since 1967, when Pope Paul VI convened the Synod for the first of its now 28 ordinary, extraordinary and special assemblies, that this cross-section of bishops ceremoniously begins its summit in the middle of the week.

Since 1994 the popes have routinely held the assemblies' opening Mass on a Sunday. The lone exception was in 1991 when John Paul II began the first Special Synod Assembly for Europe with a Eucharistic celebration on a Thursday. No pope has ever convened the Synod on a Wednesday.

It's not clear why Pope Francis chose to do so this time, although the date — Oct. 3rd — is the 742nd anniversary of the death (and day before the official feast day) of his papal namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.

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