The theme and dates for the 2015 Synod on the Family were announced this morning in the synod hall. The theme for the second part of the Synod on the Family will be “The vocation and the mission of the family within the Church and in the contemporary world.” The synod will take place from October 4-25, 2015. The issues dealt with during the first part of the Synod, which concludes this week, will be further discussed in this second part.


The synod today released what it has called its Midterm report, the “Relatio post disceptationem” or report that follows the discussion period that took place this week in the synod hall. The 5,800-word report, read in the hall today by Cardinal Peter Erdo of Hungary, the relator general of the synod, was the focus of the remarks made in a press briefing by Cardinals Erdo, Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila and Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Santiago, Chile and Archbishop Bruno Forte of of Chieti-Vasto. They also answered questions posed by journalists.

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The 58-paragraph “Relatio” is in four languages – Italian, English, Spanish and French: It may be accessed here in English:

A 1,500-word summary of the principal points may be found in 4 languages at the Vatican Information Service (VIS). I offer several pertinent paragraphs at the end of this report. For English, click here:

I posted a Vatican Radio summary as well as the entire Relatio in English on

What is noteworthy about this relatio, compared to many previous synodal and Vatican documents is its tone. It uses language that reflects the language of Francis since his election. The Pope speaks of mercy, understanding, dialogue, reconciliation, listening, welcoming. And the synod fathers spoke in those terms as well, especially when it came to very difficult pastoral issues like communion for the divorced and remarried, cohabitation, same sex unions, etc.

Though the report has in general toned down harsher language for one that is more conciliatory, and does not use phrases such as “living in sin” (cohabitation, for example) or “intrinsically disordered” (a reference to gay people) or “contraceptive mentality,” it does reaffirm Church teaching on the indissolubity of marriage, and the impossibility of celebrating or even blessing same sex unions. The relatio highlights mercy, “spiritual discernment,” “missionary conversion” as well as “a conversion of language.” It refers, for example, to “caring for wounded families” instead of those “living in sin.”

To a journalist who asked if communion for the divored and remarried or same sex unions seemed got the most attention, Cardinal Tagle said the themes that were among the most discussed topics were poverty, conflict, wars, the forced separation of families, forced migration, the situation of refugees, We asked how we as pastors provide pastoral care in these situations, or even other, such as inter-religious marriages.

Cardinal Ezzati said he listened very attentively. He said there is globalization, not only in economic spheres, but in the Church as well. There is a cultural change that is changing all of us, changing the Church. He said he saw a great capacity for listening n the synod, a great capacity for mercy and understanding. He said “the Universal Church was present in the synod hall with a heart of mercy, with the heart of pastors.”

Asked by one journalist if the “conservative voice” had been silenced in the synod hall, Cardinal Tagle, one of the three presidents delegate of the synod, was quick to state that there was ample space for all people and all voices in the synod. He cautioned, however, that we should be careful not to label people, not to use conservative or liberal because “labelling never totally captures a person.”

The cardinals said the document attempts to see and emphasize the positive of the synod and that it was an exercise in intellectual honesty as well as charity.

Cardinal Tagle said that the report “is a synthesis of our work, it is a mirror, like looking at ourselves and our work of this past week in a mirror.” He called the writers of the relatio “heroes” for bringing together the many topics raised in the synod, the many different cultural and linguistic expressions of a single issue, for example.

The report was followed this morning by two hours of very frank, very open, very free debate in the synod hall. Synod participants this afternoon began their smaller language group meetings, which will continue to the end of the synod. There will be another document after the language groups.

One point the cardinals underscored, in answer to a question, was how the participants said they felt “the spirit of Vatican Council II” in the hall. Cardinal Tagle said there were interventions that evoked the spirit of VCII in that the Council 50 years ago reflected on the Church and its mission in the contemporary world. It was not a Church closed in on itself and that was the spirit of this synod – a church looking at its mission in the contemporary world.

Other points made this morning:

– The synod must speak more of children, especially in same sex households. The child has a right to education. The importance of a mother (female) and a father (male) for the child. Parents have the right and must be the first educators of their children.
– The issues discussed in the synod are far more about the faithful than they are about bishops and bishops must be faithful to the discussion in the synod.
– Critical comments were made after the Relatio was given but then criticism was part of the discussions each day. Neither this document nor the final document will be binding but they will be used as part of and/or the basis for the 2015 synod.
– The participation of the laity in this synod has been extremely important and valuable and it is to be hoped the laity will participate in a great way in dioceses and parishes in the preparatory work for the 2015 synod. Abp. Forte stressed that “the laity are the protagonists.”
– On the laity: Cardinal Tagle said the mission received from Jesus involves the laity. The laity must be heard more often. Families must be missionary. “A faithful, loving married couple is an encouragement to pastors to be faithful in their ministry.”
– Abp. Forte: if we had to design a placard that defines the synod, it would be “Work in Progress.” He said there was a very effective use of synodality, of listening as well as talking, of walking together, of growing together, and also of the need for humility on the part of pastors. This was in the spirit of Vatican Council II, in the spirit of “Gaudium et spes” (Joy and Hope), a Church that looks with benevolence at the world.
– “Graduality” or “gradualness” was a new term often used in the synod, an important aspect. There are degrees of learning, of understanding, a spirit of accompanying, growing, maturing.


“The Report sets out three main guidelines: listening to the socio-cultural context in which families live today; discussing the pastoral perspectives to be taken, and above all, looking to Christ and to His Gospel of the family.”

“Turning our gaze to Christ ‘reaffirms the indissoluble union between a man and a woman’, but also allows us to ‘interpret the nuptial covenant in terms of continuity and novelty’. The principle, explains Cardinal Erdo, must be that of ‘gradualness’ for couples in failed marriages, with an ‘inclusive perspective’ for the ‘imperfect form of nuptial reality: ‘Realizing the need, therefore, for spiritual discernment with regard to cohabitation, civil marriages and divorced and remarried persons, it is the task of the Church to recognise those seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries. … The Church turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings’.

“There is a need, therefore, for a ‘new dimension of family pastoral’ able to nurture seeds in the process of maturation, such as civil marriages characterized by stability, deep affection, and responsibility in relation to offspring, and which may lead to a sacramental bond. Frequently cohabitation or de facto unions are not dictated by a rejection of Christian values, but rather by practical needs, such as waiting for a stable job. The Church, a true ‘House of the Father’, a ‘torch carried among the people’, continued the Cardinal, must accompany ‘her most fragile sons and daughters, marked by wounded and lost love, with attention and care’, restoring trust and hope to them.

“In the third part, the post-discussion Report goes on to face the ‘most urgent pastoral issues, the implementation of which is entrusted to the individual local Churches, always in communion with the Pope. First, the ‘proclamation of the Gospel of the family’ is ‘not to condemn, but to cure human fragility’. This proclamation also involves the faithful: “Evangelising is the shared responsibility of all God’s people, each according to his or her own ministry and charism. Without the joyous testimony of spouses and families, the announcement, even if correct, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words that is a characteristic of our society. Catholic families are themselves called upon to be the active subjects of all the pastoral of the family’.

“The Gospel of the family is ‘joy’, underlined Cardinal Erdo, and therefore requires ‘a missionary conversion’ so as not to stop at a proclamation that is ‘merely theoretical and has nothing to do with people’s real problems’. At the same time, it is also necessary to act in relation to language: ‘Conversion has, above all, to be that of language so that this might prove to be effectively meaningful’. … “

“Moving on to the issue of separated couples, divorced persons, including those subsequently remarried, Cardinal Erdo underlined that “it is not wise to think of single solutions or those inspired by a logic of ‘all or nothing’”; dialogue must therefore continue in the local Churches, “with respect and love” for every wounded family, thinking of those who have unjustly suffered abandonment by their spouse, avoiding discriminatory attitudes and protecting children: “It is indispensable to assume in a faithful and constructive way the consequences of separation or divorce on the children; they must not become an ‘object’ to be fought over and the most suitable means need to be sought so that they can get over the trauma of family break-up and grow up in the most serene way possible’.

“With regard to the streamlining of procedures for the recognition of matrimonial nullity, the General Rapporteur of the Synod reported the proposals made by the Assembly: to abandon the need for the double conforming sentence, to establish an administrative channel at diocesan level, and the introduction of a summary process in the case of clear nullity, and the possibility of “giving weight to the faith of those about to be married in terms of the validity of the sacrament of marriage”. The Cardinal emphasised that this all requires suitably prepared clergy and laypersons and a greater responsibility on the part of local bishops.

“With regard to access to the sacrament of the Eucharist for divorced and remarried persons, the Report lists the main suggestions that emerged from the Synod: maintaining the current discipline; allowing greater openness in particular cases, that may not be resolved without further injustice or suffering; or rather, opting for a “penitential” approach: partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path – under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop –, and with a clear undertaking in favour of the children. This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances.”


The Bishops Conference of England and Wales issued the following Joint Statement today: Right of Palestinians to belong to an independent state “long overdue.” The statement was signed by The Lord Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Church of England’s Lead Bishop for Foreign Affairs, and by Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, Chair of the Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs:

“At a time of great uncertainty in the Middle East and North Africa, w hold that it is the reasonable aspiration of all peoples to belong to a state and enjoy the merits of full and active citizenship on their own lands. We equally believe that the right of Palestinians for such statehood has been long overdue.

“Given the benchmarks established by international law and universal legitimacy, and in light of the support offered by the Christian Church in the Holy Land, we believe Palestinians should also have a state that they can at long last call home. Such a principled recognition by our Parliament and Government will facilitate rather than hamper the negotiations that would inevitably follow between Israelis and Palestinians to agree upon the details of this new and sovereign state created next to a secure Israel.

“Peace needs a bold vision.”