By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer
ERLANGER - Less than a year after his installation as the bishop of Covington, Roger Foys has called for the fifth synod in the 150-year history of the diocese.
It's been 40 years since the Diocese of Covington last held a synod to update diocesan policies, adopt new regulations, improve operations, and facilitate spiritual growth. The last synod ran from 1961 to 1963.
Foys, who was unavailable for comment Monday, told the diocesan newspaper, The Messenger, that he is forming a preparatory commission of 12 to 15 members to advise him in setting the agenda for the synod. The new bishop told The Messenger that he expects the entire synod process will last about two years.
WHAT IS A SYNOD?
A synod is an ecclesiastical council or assembly. In the Roman Catholic faith, a bishop convenes a synod to discuss and recommend proposed legislation relating to diocesan or parish life, not church law.
The agenda is set with the help of a 12- to 15-member preparatory commission that's mostly made up of diocesan priests in leadership positions. Issues for study are then assigned to diocesan subcommittees that include representatives of religious orders, lay Catholics, and possibly non-Catholics.
Those groups recommend new or updated policies and regulations that are formalized in synod meetings. The bishop has the final say on any legislative changes made.
A synod is a way to help the bishop in the governance of the diocese and in setting its future direction, said the Rev. Gerald Reinersman, the chancellor and vicar general of the Diocese of Covington. It can address anything from educational opportunities within a diocese to parish boundaries.
"A synod results in the formation of policies and spiritual growth,'' said diocesan spokesman Tim Fitzgerald. "It asks questions like, 'How can the churches in the Diocese of Covington better fulfill God's will? How can they better serve the people to whom they're responsible?' "
"This is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to living and celebrating and sharing our faith," Reinersman said. "I don't think there's any particular issue that prompted (the bishop to convene the synod), except the fact that there's not been a synod since 1963, and I think he just felt it was time to do that."
Some religious leaders have compared a synod to a state constitutional convention. While a synod cannot change laws of the Catholic Church, it can change diocesan policies, procedures and regulations.
The diocese recently has been the target of several lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct by priests, some decades ago. Last month, a Boone County judge ordered the Diocese of Covington to open its archive to a Cincinnati attorney who's trying to prove church leaders permitted an atmosphere in which sexual abuse of children was tolerated.
Other possible issues include exploring ways to make a Catholic education affordable for low-income youths, addressing the shortage of priests and nuns, helping lay people better define how to carry out the mission of Christ, and how to deal with today's smaller families and the demographic shift to the suburbs that's left many inner city parishes struggling for members.
Foys announced his decision to convene a synod on April 10 during a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington.
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