Pope Francis called for an extraordinary Synod of Bishops, to discuss the pastoral role of families. The gathering will bring bishops from across the world to Rome from October 5-19 in 2014. At issue will be pastoral challenges families face in the context of evangelization.
Since it's an 'extraordinary assembly,' the only participants will be the presidents of episcopal conferences, patriarchs, heads of the Vatican's dicasteries, and the superiors of religious orders.
To date, there have only been two extraordinary assemblies in modern history. The first held in 1969, dealt with the role of episcopal conferences; while the second, in 1985, was on the 20th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.
The Synod of Bishops is the body that brings together bishops from across the world to help the Pope govern the Church. Pope Francis has stated he would like to see the group play a larger role in Church affairs. In fact, during their first official meeting with the Pope, the Council of Cardinals, made up of eight cardinals, spent a great part of their time talking about how to make the Synod of Bishops more efficient.