The Synod of Bishops on The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church ran October 5-26, 2008 in Rome.
The final 55 propositions submitted to Pope Benedict XVI represent a victory for what might be called the “moderate” line. The Synod’s conclusions are merely advisory, and it will be up to Pope Benedict XVI to decide on what action, if any, to take. But the propositions illustrate the thinking of a representative cross-section of bishops from around the world.
This Synod is likely to be remembered for its efforts to reach out to women.
For the first time, women were a majority among the official “observers,” occupying 19 of 37 spots. Six female scholars were nominated as experts. More women participated in this synod than in any edition since the body first met in 1967.
In the end, concern for women came through most clearly in Proposition 17, devoted to “Ministry of the Word and Women.”
Under existing church law, the ministry of lector is technically open only to males. In part, that’s for historical reasons; before 1972, the office of lector was considered one of the “minor orders” leading to priestly ordination.
Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) it’s become common practice for women to read at Mass, including during papal liturgies in Rome, but this is officially considered only a “temporary” measure.
The bishops recommended it be made permanent.
“It is hoped that ministry of lector can be opened also to women, so that their role as announcers of the Word may be recognized in the Christian community.”
The proposition on the lectionary did not directly address complaints from some quarters that the current selection omits stories about women, but it called for attention to the “exclusion of certain important passages.”