Pope Francis announces an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for October 2014 on topics related to the family and evangelization. Subsequent communications made clear that the Extraordinary General Assembly would be followed by an Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2015, on the same topics.
The Vatican releases a preparatory document entitled Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization . To allow the particular Churches to participate actively in the preparation of the Extraordinary Synod, this document includes a questionnaire addressing topics such as the knowledge of Church Doctrine among Catholics, the percentage of unmarried couples living together, addressing the spiritual needs of divorced couples and gays, and how to best foster a culture of life.
Over 90% of the episcopal conferences around the send responses to the initial preparatory document, which forms the basis for the document known as the Instrumentum Laboris. This document provides a substantive reflection on the major challenges facing the family today, and outlines the topics of discussion at the Extraordinary General Assembly.
253 participants gather in Vatican City to participate in the synod, including 114 presidents of Bishops' Conferences, 13 heads of Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, 25 heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, nine members of the Ordinary Council for the Secretariat, and 38 auditors (including 13 married couples, and 16 experts). At the outset, Pope Francis encouraged the Synod fathers to speak openly, even if they had an opinion they were worried would conflict with those of the Holy Father (“It is necessary to say with parrhesia all that one feels.”).
Pope Francis releases the Relatio Synodi (final report) of the Extraordinary Synod. According to the conclusion of the document: “These proposed reflections, the fruit of the synodal work that took place in great freedom and with a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate points of view that will later be developed and clarified through reflection in the local Churches in the intervening year leading to the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops” (n. 62)
The Synod Secretariat releases the Lineamenta, which includes both the Relatio as well as a series of questions to generate an in-depth examination of the work initiated during the Extraordinary Assembly. The episcopal conferences are asked to choose a suitable manner of involving all components of the particular churches and academic institutions, organizations, lay movements and other ecclesial associations. The Catholic Diocese of Dallas participates in this questionnaire by collecting answers via an online survey.
The Instrumentum Laboris is released to serve as the "working document" for the Ordinary Synod. It contains the Relatio Synodi from the conclusion of the III Extraordinary Synod, as well as a summary of the responses to the questions in the Lineamenta. As explained by Cardinal Baldisseri in the Presentation of the Instrumentum Laboris, the three sections of the document "illustrate the continuity between the two Assembles".
The Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, commonly known as the Synod on the Family, takes place at the Synod Hall in the Paul VI Audience Hall in Vatican City. Vatican officials announced a few days before the opening Mass that the 2015 assembly of the Synod would be run with three mini-Synods, one a week, for the three week duration. In week one, the bishops discuss challenges facing the family, in week two the bishops address the vocation of the family, and the final week is devoted to the mission of the family today. The final mini-Synod contains some of the most controversial issues, and small group sessions are conducted throughout the final week.
The Final Report of the Synod of Bishops to the Holy Father, Pope Francis is published. The conclusion of the document states: “We hope that the result of this work, now delivered into the hands of the Successor of Peter, might give hope and joy to many families in the world, guidance to pastors and pastoral workers, and a stimulus to the work of evangelization. In concluding this report, we humbly ask the Holy Father to consider the possibility of issuing a document on the family, so that the family, the domestic Church, might increasingly radiate Christ, who is the light of the world.”
The Vatican releases a postsynodal apostolic exhortation titled 'Amoris Laetitia: On Love in the Family'.