I did not attend today’s early afternoon press briefing on the synod because I was preparing this week’s edition of “Vatican Insider” for EWTN radio and working on this column, my photo archive, etc. The synod news I present below is important and is a key to understanding how the 10 language groups viewed the “relatio” that was released last Monday and what suggestions and ideas they have made for the final document that will be published sometime over the weekend (most likely Sunday, it is being said). As you can see by the title, all participants want a more Christ-centric focus on the family – definitely good news!
The best news of the week is yet to come, for on Sunday, October 19, during Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Paul VI – the predecessor of both Pope Francis and Pope emeritus Benedict – will be beatified. Pope Paul was actually the first of four pontiffs I ever spoke to (September 1974 at Castelgandolfo), although St. John XXIII was the first Pope in whose presence I was.
CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN IS GUEST ON “VATICAN INSIDER”
I spoke several days ago with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and a friend of some 20 years. We sat on a rooftop terrace of the North American College where he was rector from 1994 to 2001 and where I took the photos you see here. Just a quick note: if you hear a slight background noise a few times, it is coming from the new building that is being constructed to accommodate offices, classrooms, some chapels and some residence rooms (one of the photos shows the almost-completed new building).
This is a do-not-miss interview as Cardinal Dolan will answer many questions – and perhaps a few doubts – you have about the synod on the family in which he is participating.
As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at http://www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:
BENEDICT XVI TO ATTEND THE BEATIFICATION OF PAUL VI
(VIS) Benedict XVI will attend the beatification of his predecessor, Pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, according to Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office. The Pope emeritus was made a cardinal by Paul VI, and the ceremony will be attended by another two cardinals created by the late pontiff: Cardinals Paulo Evaristo Arns, archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and William Wakefield Baum, major penitentiary emeritus.
A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present the figure of the new blessed and his relevance to the contemporary Church. The speakers were Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops; Fr. Pierantonio Lanzoni, episcopal delegate for the promotion of the memory of Paul VI in the diocese of Brescia, where the pontiff was born in the town of Concesio in 1897; Fr. Antonio Marrazzo, C.SS.R., postulator of the cause for beatification and Fr. Davide Milani, spokesperson for the diocese of Milan, where Cardinal Montini was archbishop between 1954 and 1963.
Thousands of pilgrims are expected to attend the beatification and related events. On Saturday October 18, in the Roman basilica of the Twelve Apostles, Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, will preside at Vespers. Before he was elected to the papacy, Paul VI was archbishop of Milan. At 10.30 a.m. on Sunday, in St. Peter’s Square, the Mass of beatification will be celebrated by Pope Francis. At 9.30 a.m. on Monday October 20, in the basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, Cardinal Scola will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving for the faithful of the dioceses of Milan and Brescia.
LANGUAGE GROUPS ASK FOR MORE CHRIST-CENTRIC FOCUS ON THE FAMILY
(Vatican Radio) The vision of the world, and above all of the family, must be one which “passes through the lens of the Gospel, to encourage men and women to the conversion of the heart”. In short there must be a more “Christ-centric” focus on the family.
This – in summary – is the conclusion reached by the ten Small Groups, at the end of the second phase of the ongoing Synod on the Family. (Emer McCarthy reports on radio)
The groups – divided according to language: two in French, three in English, three in Italian and two in Spanish – presented their reports Thursday. These contain their reflections the midway document that followed last week’s general debate, as well as proposals to incorporate in the “Relatio Synodi” (RS), the Assembly’s concluding text.
These proposals include issues that the bishops, experts and delegates believe have been overlooked in the heat of debate, such as the themes of adoption, biotechnology and the spread of culture via the internet, which may condition family life.
The Working Groups also speak of the importance of policies in favor of the family and the need for greater attention to the presence of the elderly within families, and to families who live in conditions of extreme poverty.
Their conclusions also denounce of the grave problems of prostitution, female genital mutilation and the exploitation of minors for sexual purposes and for labor.
And they call for greater emphasis on the essential role of families in evangelization and in the transmission of faith, highlighting their missionary vocation.
But what stands out is the Working Groups suggestion that the final Assembly text also mention the positive message of the Gospel of the family. While not disregarding the obvious need to draw near to families in crisis, the Working Groups state that it is essential to underline more clearly the doctrine on marriage, emphasizing that it is a gift from God.
Following is an unofficial summary of the Working Groups reports:
The twelfth General Congregation included the presentation, in the Assembly, of the Reports of the ten Small Groups, divided according to language: two in French, three in English, three in Italian and two in Spanish.
In general, the Small Groups presented both an evaluation of the “Relatio post disceptationem” (RPD), a provisional document published at the midway point during the Synod, as well as proposals to incorporate in the “Relatio Synodi” (RS), the definitive and conclusive document of the Assembly.
Firstly, some perplexity was voiced regarding to the publication, although legitimate, of the RPD since, it was said, this is a working document that does not express a univocal opinion shared by all the Synod Fathers. Therefore, after expressing their appreciation of the work involved in drawing up the text and regarding its structure, the Small Groups presented their suggestions.
It was first underlined that in the RPD there is a focus on the concerns of families in crisis, without broader reference to the positive message of the Gospel of the family or to the fact that marriage as a sacrament, an indissoluble union between man and woman, retains a very current value in which many couples believe. Therefore, the hope was expressed that the RS may contain a strong message of encouragement and support for the Church and for faithful married couples.
Furthermore, it was remarked that it is essential to underline more clearly the doctrine on marriage, emphasising that it is a gift from God. It was further proposed that elements not contained in the RPD be integrated in the RS, such as the theme of adoption, expressing the hope that bureaucratic procedures be streamlined, both at national and international levels, and also the themes of biotechnology and the spread of culture via the internet, which may condition family life, as well as a note regarding the importance of policies in favour of the family.
In addition, it was said that greater attention should be paid to the presence of the elderly within families, and to families who live in conditions of extreme poverty.
The grave problems of prostitution, female genital mutilation and the exploitation of minors for sexual purposes and for labour were denounced.
It is important, it was said, to underline the essential role of families in evangelisation and in the transmission of faith, highlighting their missionary vocation.
Overall, the aim is to offer a balanced and global idea of the “family” in a Christian sense. With regard to difficult family situations, the Small Groups highlighted that the Church should be a welcoming home for all, in order that no-one feel refused. However, greater clarity was advocated, to avoid confusion, hesitation and euphemisms in language, regarding for example the law of gradualness, so that it does not become gradualness of the law. Various Groups, furthermore, expressed perplexity regarding the analogy made with paragraph 8 of Lumen Gentium, inasmuch as this could give the impression of a willingness on the part of the Church to legitimise irregular family situations, even though these may represent a phase in the itinerary towards the sacrament of marriage. Other Groups expressed their hope for a more in-depth focus on the concept of “spiritual communion”, so thatit may be evaluated and eventually promoted and disseminated.
With regard to possibility of divorced and remarried persons partaking in the sacrament of the Eucharist, two main perspectives emerged: on the one hand, it was suggested that the doctrine not be modified and to remain as it is at present; on the other, to open up the possibility of communication, with an approach based on compassion and mercy, but only under certain conditions. In other cases, furthermore, it was suggested that the matter be studied by a specific interdisciplinary Commission. Greater care was suggested in relation to divorced persons who have not remarried, and who are often heroic witnesses of conjugal fidelity. At the same time, an acceleration of the procedures for acknowledging matrimonial nullity and the confirmation of validity was advocated; furthermore, it was emphasised that children are not a burden but rather a gift from God, the fruit of love between spouses.
A more “Christ-centric” orientation was required, as well as clearer emphasis of the link between the sacraments of marriage and baptism. The vision of the world must be one which passes through the lens of the Gospel, to encourage men and women to the conversion of the heart.
Furthermore, it was emphasised that, despite the impossibility of equating marriage between a man and a woman with homosexual unions, persons of this orientation must receive pastoral accompaniment and their dignity must be protected, without however implying that this may indicate a form of approval, on the part of the Church, of their orientation and way of life. With regard to the issue of polygamy, especially polygamists who convert to Catholicism and wish to partake in the sacraments, thorough study was suggested.
The Small Groups advocated broader reflection on the figure of Mary and the Holy Family, to be better promoted as a model for reference for all family units. Finally, it was asked that it be highlighted that the RS will in any case bea preparatory document for the Ordinary Synod scheduled for October 2015.