Some articles on the working document (which is not yet in English) and the process:
First, when we talk of this "Synod," what are we talking about?
The Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution established by Pope Paul VI, 15 September 1965, in response to the desire of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council to keep alive the spirit of collegiality engendered by the conciliar experience.
Literally speaking the word "synod", derived from two Greek words syn meaning "together" and hodos meaning "road" or "way", means a "coming together". A Synod is a religious meeting or assembly at which bishops, gathered around and with the Holy Father, have opportunity to interact with each other and to share information and experiences, in the common pursuit of pastoral solutions which have a universal validity and application. The Synod, generally speaking, can be defined as an assembly of bishops representing the Catholic episcopate, having the task of helping the Pope in the governing of the universal Church by rendering their counsel. Pope John Paul II has referred to the Synod as "a particularly fruitful expression and instrument of the collegiality of bishops".
The principal characteristic of the Synod of Bishops is service to the communion and collegiality of the world’s bishops with the Holy Father. It is not a particular organism with limited competence as that of the Roman Congregations and Councils. Instead, it has full competence to deal with any subject in accordance with the procedure established by the Holy Father in the letter of convocation. The Synod of Bishops with its permanent General Secretariat is not part of the Roman Curia and does not depend on it; it is subject directly and solely to the Holy Father, with whom it is united in the universal government of the Church.
Though the institution of the Synod of Bishops is permanent in character, its actual functioning and concrete collaboration are not. In other words, the Synod of Bishops meets and operates only when the Holy Father considers it necessary or opportune to consult the episcopate, which at a synodal gathering, expresses its “opinion on very important and serious subjects” (Paul VI, Address to Cardinals, 24 June 1967). The task of every synodal Assembly shares in the collegial character which the episcopate can offer to the Holy Father. Through the Holy Father’s acceptance of the advice or the decisions of a given Assembly, the episcopate exercises a collegial activity which approaches but does not equal that manifested at an Ecumenical Council. This is a direct result of various factors: the ensured representation of the whole episcopate, the convocation by the Holy Father and “the unity of the episcopate, which, in order to be one, requires that there be a Head of the College” (John Paul II, Pastores Gregis, 56), who is first in the episcopal order.
So, this fall’s Synod was announced by Pope John Paul II when he declared The Year of the Eucharist, and was planned to be a fitting end to that year.
(I’m sure John Allen will have more in the Word from Rome on Friday. I’ll be on the road…so someone post a link when it comes up. Usually late morning)
From the Zenit article:
The 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be shorter in duration than the preceding ones, lasting three weeks, and not a whole month, as Pope John Paul II first planned.
The decision was made by Benedict XVI, not only to "favor the bishops’ stay in their sees," but also to foster "greater concentration" during the discussions.
…The open discussions will be moderated by the presidents delegate of the synod: Cardinal Francis Arinze, of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, of Guadalajara, Mexico; and Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, of Ranchi, India.
…"It is hoped that the proposals will not repeat the traditional doctrine of the Church, but that they will be oriented to fostering a renewal of the pastoral application and liturgical celebration of the sacrament of the Eucharist in the universal Church," said Archbishop Eterovic.
Here’s what I’m liking about Benedict. Well, one of the things: he seems to be the model of efficiency. (Insert German joke here. I won’t.) But really. He seems to me to be very much a 78-year old man who has watched curial and episcopal doings for decades, knows the score and knows that he doesn’t have all the time in the world to take care of business. Get to work, don’t waste time, don’t restate the obvious, but figure out how we can bring what we know is true all the more powerfully to the people, to help them encounter Christ and know the joy of faith.