CANONICAL PROVISIONS 
FOR SYNOD OF BISHOPS

1. Introduction 

The Synod of Bishops came into existence as a result of a document motu proprio (that is, arising from the Pope's own initiative) called Apostolica Sollicitudo, 15 September 1965, of Pope Paul VI. The provisions of this apostolic letter are contained in Canons 342 - 348 of the Code of Canon Law and Canon 46 of the Code of Canons for the Easter Churches.

2. The Code of Canon Law - Canons 342 - 348

Canon 342 - The synod of bishops is that group of bishops who have been chosen from different regions of the world and who meet at stated times to foster a closer unity between the Roman Pontiff and the bishops, to assist the Roman Pontiff with their counsel in safeguarding and increasing their faith and morals in preserving and strengthening ecclesiastical discipline, and to consider questions concerning the Church's activity in the world.

Canon 343 - It is the role of the synod of bishops to discuss the questions on their agenda and to express their desires about them but not to resolve them or to issue decrees about them, unless the Roman Pontiff in certain cases has endowed the synod with deliberative power, and in this event, it is his role to ratify its decisions.

Canon 344 - A synod of bishops is directly under the authority of the Roman Pontiff whose role it is to: 

1) convoke a synod as often as he deems it opportune and to designate the place where its sessions are to be held; 

2) ratify the election of those members who are to be elected in accord with the norm of special law and to designate and name its other members; 

3) determine topics for discussion at a suitable time before the celebration of the synod in accord with the norm of the special law;

4) determine the agenda;

5) preside over the synod in person or through others;

6) conclude, transfer, suspend and dissolve the synod.
 

Canon 345 - A synod of bishops can meet in a general session, which deals with matters which directly concern the good of the entire Church; such a session is either ordinary or extraordinary; a synod of bishops can also meet in a special session, which deals with matters which directly concern a definite region or regions.

Canon 346 - 1. The membership of a synod of bishops gathered in ordinary general session consists of the following: for the most part, bishops elected to represent their individual groups by the conferences of bishops in accord with the special law of the synod; other bishops designated in virtue of this law itself; other bishops named by the Roman Pontiff. To this membership are added some members of clerical religious institutes elected in accord with the norm of the same special law.

2. A synod of bishops is gathered in extraordinary general session to deal with matters which require a speedy solution; its membership consists of the following: most of them are bishops designated by the special law of the synod in virtue of the office which they hold; others are bishops directly named by the Roman Pontiff. To this membership are added some members of clerical religious institutes elected in accord with the same law.

3. The membership of a synod of bishops gathered in a special session consists of those who have been especially selected from the regions for which the synod has been convoked, in accord with the norm of the special law which governs such a synod.

Canon 347 - 1. When a session of a synod of bishops is concluded by the Roman Pontiff, the responsibility entrusted to the bishops and other members in the synod ceases.

2. If the Apostolic See becomes vacant after a synod has been called or during its celebration the meeting of synod is suspended by the law itself as is the responsibility which been entrusted to its members in connection with it; such a suspension continues until a new Pontiff decrees either that the session be dissolved or continued.

Canon 348 - 1. The synod of bishops has a permanent general secretariat presided over by a general secretary who is appointed by the Roman Pontiff; he is assisted by the council of the secretariat; this council consists of bishops, some of whom are elected in accord with the norm of its special law by the synod of bishops itself while other are appointed by the Roman Pontiff; the responsibility of all these members ceases when a new general session begins.

2. Furthermore one or several secretaries are established who are named by the Roman Pontiff for each session of a synod of bishops, but they remain in the role entrusted to them only until the session of the synod has been completed.
 

3. The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches

Canon 46 - 1. In exercising his office (munus) the Roman Pontiff is assisted by the bishops who aid him in various ways and among these is the synod of bishops; moreover the cardinals, the Roman Curia, pontifical legates and other persons and various institutes assist him according to the needs of the times; all these persons and institutes carry out the task committed to them in his name and by his authority for the good of all the Churches, according to the norm of law established by the Roman Pontiff himself.

2. The participation of patriarch and other hierarchs who preside over Churches sui iuris in the synod of bishops is regulated by special norms established by the Roman Pontiff.