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The 14th general assembly of the Synod of Bishops opens in Rome Oct. 4. It will bring together some 300 cardinals and bishops, along with a few dozen lay and religious advisers and consultors to discuss pressing issues around family life.

The synod -- its official theme is "The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World" -- runs until Oct. 25 and is the culmination of more than two years of preparation that included among the widest consultations the Vatican has ever undertaken.

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