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Reviewed by:
  • Synod and Synodality, Theology, History, Canon Law and Ecumenism in New Contact
  • Francis A. Sullivan S.J.
Synod and Synodality, Theology, History, Canon Law and Ecumenism in New Contact. Edited by Alberto Melloni and Silvia Scatena. [Christianity and History: Series of the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies in Bologna, Vol. 1.] (Münster: LIT Verlag. 2005. Pp. iv, 720. €69,90 paperback.)

This volume contains thirty papers that were presented at an international colloquium that was held at Bruges in 2003 on the topic: "Synod and Synodality in the Churches." Half of the papers are in English; the rest are in French (7), Italian (7), and Spanish (1). An abstract of each paper is provided in English. The papers are grouped under seven topic headings: "Theological Foundation," "Historical Depth," "19th-20th Century," "Synodality at 'Regional' Level," "Panorama on Some Cases of Roman Catholic Synodality," "Central Government and Communion," and "Some Case Studies in Decision Making and Synodal Practice." While the majority of the papers focus on the Catholic Church, [End Page 268] other churches whose experience of synodality is treated are the Russian Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed, Baptist, and Methodist.

The colloquium is noteworthy for the number of different synodal structures that are discussed. Those in the Catholic Church are the consistory, diocesan synods, national synods, national pastoral councils, regional synods, episcopal conferences, councils or federations of episcopal conferences, and the Synod of Bishops. Those elsewhere are the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church (1917–18), synodical government in Anglican and Protestant churches, the proposed European Protestant Synod, and the World Council of Churches. The international character of the colloquium is reflected in the number of countries or regions in which the practice of synodality in the churches is described: Russia, England, Germany, Canada, India, Latin America, West Africa, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland. In most cases, the authors are members of the churches and citizens of the countries about which they write.

Since it is impossible in a brief review to do justice to the rich contents of the thirty contributions to this colloquium, I shall mention only two that I think likely to be of particular interest to the readers of this journal.

Paolo Bernardini's contribution is a survey of the major studies that have been published concerning the African councils of the third century, beginning with the first of the series of articles by J. A. Fischer (1979). He notes that the authors of these studies have not only further analyzed the information to be found in the letters of Cyprian, but have also mined the Sententiae LXXXVII Episcoporum with good results. These studies have also shown that the process of decision-making in these councils reflects not only that of the Roman senate, but also that commonly used in contemporary municipal councils.

Maria Teresa Fattori describes the transition that took place in the latter half of the sixteenth century from the synodal form of papal government, that gave a major role to the consistory, to the centralized government that was effected by the pope's use of the Congregation of the Inquisition as his instrument for carrying out the reform of the Church. Despite the efforts of Gregory XIII to reverse this trend, by the end of the century, the consistory no longer played a significant role in papal government.

The editors are to be commended for making this informative collection of studies available to the public. The abstracts in English will be appreciated by those who might not have the time to read all the papers, especially those in other languages. The authors have provided a generous amount of bibliographical information in their footnotes. The volume includes an index of names.

Francis A. Sullivan S.J.
Boston College