For the first time, the Vatican has published the resolutions regarding all special councils.
Africa was the first continent to host a 'special council' meeting in 1994 and 2009. Nigerian cardinal Francis Arinze recalls one fundamental contribution the synod brought to different African cultures.
CARD. FRANCIS ARINZE
Prefect Emeritus, Congregation for Divine Worship
"'Conscientization!' Being aware of the dimension, of the demands of evangelization. Sharing the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ in the various African cultures. The bishops and other people who attend listen to one another, they share information, a persongets information, knowing what others are doing. Then, the road ahead becomes even clearer.”
Asia also hosted a special synod back in 1998. With bishops coming from highly diverse backgrounds, the synod was an example of unity through diversity.
MSGR. SAVIO HON TAI-FAI
Secretary, Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
"Bishops in Asia are separated. They do not speak the same language, they do not have the same culture. But for the first time they met to talk to each other, think together, pray together, live together. This has a value in itself, as an example for people of other religions, too, to tell them that we are able to bond together.”
But these assemblies are not attended by bishops alone. Lay people also play a key role in the synod's meetings.
Secretary, Pontifical Commission for Latin America
"After the 1987 synod, all the following ones have been attended by 20, 30, 40 laymen. They obviously do not have voting right, but they speak, they attend minor assemblies, they are present at the synod itself. This is important. It is something that does not 'distort' the synod; on the other hands, it elevates it by adding to it various other experiences within the Church.”
The last special assembly was devoted to the Middle East. The 2 week meeting took place back in 2010 and had 185 attendees.