Pope Benedict XVI opened a meeting of bishops from around the world on Monday by stressing that while they are of the same faith and should help one another by working together.
Benedict referred to the need for "collegiality" during the Synod of Bishops, the three-week meeting during which prelates from 118 countries will make recommendations to the pope on running the church.
Collegiality is a term that in church circles refers to greater power-sharing between bishops and the pope a key concern for some who feel the power of the Catholic Church has been concentrated too much in Rome.
Benedict made reference to the issue in an off-the-cuff opening exhortation to the bishops, who gathered Monday for their first substantive session of discussions on the Eucharist, the sacrament in which Catholics receive Communion that is the topic of the Oct. 2-23 synod.
"One of the functions of collegiality is to help us ... to know the shortcomings in ourselves that we don't want to see," Benedict said. He urged the bishops to have a "humble heart" as they begin the synod and work together on equal footing.
"You have the same fundamental vision of loyalty, with all the differences that aren't only legitimate but necessary," he said.
While the topic of the synod is the Eucharist, several other issues are expected to be discussed in the sessions, including formal speeches and small round-table discussions among bishops, theologians and lay experts.
The working document for the synod mentions whether Communion should be given to Catholic politicians who back abortion rights and to divorced Catholics who remarry without an annulment.
It also mentions the shortage of priests in many parts of the world and declining Mass attendance, and devotes significant time to other issues such as the design of church interiors and the role of the laity in Masses, reports the AP.