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65 Jurist 241 (2005)
Provincial and Plenary Councils: Renewed Interest in an Ancient Institution

handle is hein.journals/juristcu65 and id is 245 raw text is: THE JURIST 65 (2005) 241-267

The Second Vatican Council presented a revitalized vision of colle-
giality among bishops of the Church. It called bishops to foster and safe-
guard the unity of the faith, to uphold the discipline of the universal
Church, and to enter into collaboration with each other and with the
Roman Pontiff.1 The council fathers expressed hope that there would be
a resurgence of councils and synods.2 Bishops of particular churches
held councils from the earliest centuries of the Church, providing oppor-
tunities for neighboring bishops to join their resources and aspirations to
promote both the common good of the territory and the individual good
of each diocese. Among the means of renewed episcopal collaboration at
the local level are episcopal conferences and particular councils.
Conferences of bishops, already in existence in many countries at the
time of the Second Vatican Council, were highly recommended by the
council for those territories in which they did not yet exist.3 The episco-
pal conference is a permanent organization of the bishops of a particular
country or region, through which bishops exercise together certain pas-
toral functions.4
* Archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts and t Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan
Lumen gentium 23.
2 Christus Dominus 36. Tertullian was the first to use the word council for assem-
blies of ecclesiastics, while the word synod was used by Dionysius of Alexandria for the
same institutions. See Willibald M. Plochl, Storia del Diritto Canonico, 2 vols. (Milan:
Massimo, 1963) 1: 52. The use of the terms council and synod has undergone only
slight variations throughout history. Frequently the two terms were interchangeable, as,
for example, at the Council of Trent which referred to itself in the title and at the beginning
of some documents as a council. For example, see sess. 3, February 4, 1546, in The
Sources of Catholic Dogma, ed. Henry Denzinger (London: B. Herder Book Co., 1957)
243 and sess. 14, November 25, 1551, in ibid., 27 1. However, in most sessions it referred
to itself as a synod. See, e.g., sess. 3, February 4, 1546, in ibid., 243. A similar usage char-
acterized the Second Vatican Council, which alternated in the terms used throughout its
documents. For the use of the term synod, see Inter mirifica, 2; Orientalium Eccle-
siarum, I; Christus Dominus, 3; Perfectae caritatis, 1; for the use of the term council,
see Sacrosanctum concilium, I; Lumen gentium, 1; Unitatis redintegratio, I.
3 Christus Dominus 37-38.
4 1983 code, c. 447.

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