By Elizabeth Dias
October 6, 2014

There’s a lot about the Extraordinary Synod of the Bishops on the Family that may seem unfamiliar or foreign to observers—especially the vocabulary. As leaders of the Catholic church gather this week at the Vatican to discuss issues, including divorce and remarriage, here’s a rundown of synod-speak for the uninitiated:

Synod: a gathering of clergy, or a church council; synod means “coming together” in Greek

Extraordinary Synod: a synod called for a special and urgent purpose

Synod Father: a priest participating in the synod

Intervention: a written statement composed and submitted by a synod father about views and topics he would like considered in the synod

Ecclesial: having to do with the church

Relator (pronounced, real-AH-tor): the designated person in an ecclesial gathering who conveys, writes or records the information that the meeting will discuss. The 2014 Synod Relator is Cardinal Péter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Hungary.

Secretary General: the synod’s basic administrator who assists in all the synod’s preparations and forthcoming documents. The 2014 Synod Secretary General is Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri

Mitre: the pointed hat a bishop wears for special occasions, like synod masses

Auditor: person specially selected by Pope Francis to observe the synod and all its proceedings

Fraternal delegates: representatives of non-Catholic Christian communities who are present at the synod

Voting members: cardinals and other papal appointees who can vote in the synod

Non-voting members: auditors, observers, and other participants who cannot vote in the synod

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