Stained Glass Banner Image

What is the Synod of Bishops?

​The Synod of Bishops is an international gathering of bishops at the Vatican. The bishops meet at the Pope’s request to provide counsel on important questions currently facing the Church, in a manner that preserves the Church’s teaching.

The Synod convenes in “Ordinary” and “Extraordinary” General Assemblies, or a “Special Assembly"

  • Ordinary General Assembly: When topic is “for the good of the universal Church” and seems to require the “learning, prudence and counsel” of all the world’s bishops; typically involves more participants than Extraordinary General Assembly

  • Extraordinary General Assembly: When topic deals with matters “which require a speedy solution” and which demand “immediate attention for the good of the entire Church”

  • Special Assembly (or Session): When topic pertains to a specific geographical area

After an Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, it is common for the Holy Father to issue a substantive document, called a post-synodal apostolic exhortation​, which takes up the themes of the Synod and deepens them further.

DID YOU KNOW? The Synod of Bishops was established by Pope Paul VI in 1965 after the end of the Second Vatican Council, to continue the spirit of communion present at the Council.