Following is a Vatican Radio summary of the first press briefing held Monday by several Synod Fathers at the end of the first morning of work in the just-opened synod on the family. I did see part of the press briefing today online and not in person because I was in my office researching and writing a television spot for today’s edition of “@Home with Jim and Joy.” As you know, their program airs twice weekly, on Mondays and Thursdays and I am privileged to be part of this popular show about marriage, the family and pro-life issues.

You’ll be hearing a lot from me in coming weeks given that one of the themes of @ Home – the family – is precisely the main theme of the synod!

The synod this year is offering less time to speeches by the Synod Fathers in the main hall and more time to the small language groups that will meet most mornings and afternoons. In any case, briefings will be offered every day in the press office in various languages, and they will focus on either the general work sessions or the language groups.


(Vatican Radio) The first of the daily press conferences to report on the proceedings of the Synod of the Family took place at 1pm Rome time on Monday. The Synod began on Sunday with a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica and the first session sat on Monday morning. (photo


Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, was accompanied by Cardinal Péter Erdö from Hungary – who is the synod realtor; Cardinal André Vingt-Trois from France – one of the president delegates; and Italian Archbishop Bruno Forte – who is special secretary to the Synod. In his remarks Fr. Lombardi said that each day there would be Synod Fathers present at the press conference as guests.

Fr. Lombardi explained the order of the morning’s session which began with prayer and the singing of the Veni Creator Spiritus. Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the synod, welcomed everyone before Pope Francis gave his opening address to the Synod Fathers. After the morning coffee break, Cardinal Péter Erdö gave the introductory address entitled “The Vocation of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World.”

Cardinal Vingt-Trois said that his first impression of the Synod was that there is “a wide diversity of participants, geographically, which includes members form the Latin and Oriental Churches but all are hinged around the Pope.” He said that the Holy Father had reiterated what he had said before; he wants to tackle issues in an “open-minded way through prayer, meditation and dialogue.”

Cardinal Erdö explained that his introductory address had followed the structure of Instrumentum Laboris. “I tried to systematise all the data which was received from the Church around the world, including families and individuals who wrote to us, following the themes already in Instrumentum Laboris.”

Archbishop Forte, in his remarks, said that the aim of the Synod was to “propose the gospel of the family” but also to “echo the hopes and pains of families around the world today.” He emphasised the need for “openness to the Holy Spirit as well as prayer and humility before God.”

The prelates answered some questions after their short inputs. They were asked if they feel under pressure form the media. Archbishop Forte responded saying that last year some media had a “bi-polar interpretation” of what was happening at the Synod but that this was “not the perception inside the Synod.” He said “We are here to listen to the problems people have, we are more united than the media assumes. There are divergent views, which are ok, but this does not mean division. I feel we are on a marvellous spiritual pathway with God.”

Cardinal Vingt-Trois explained how, in Paris, people were invited to create “synod teams.” He said that these teams found there were divergent opinions among them and they “could be expressed without breaking communion.”

The prelates emphasised that the Synod was a pastoral one. “It will not lead to doctrinal changes, because it is about pastoral attention, pastoral care. We are about resonating pastorally,” Forte said.

Cardinal Erdö said that there was an active interest in the Synod because of the issues that were raised last year. He said that the Synod Fathers hope to develop the Church’s understanding of family by listening to each other and paying special attention to tradition. “Development is not unlimited; we have to look at tradition.”





The 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World,” began this morning in the Synod Hall in the presence of Pope Francis. Francis called for the two-part synod on the family – October 2014 was Part One, the Extraordinary Synod on the Family – early in his papacy.

The first Synod Father to speak was Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, who presented to the Synod Fathers a brief meditation summarising the intentions and spirit of the Assembly. Cardinal Maradiaga is also one of the Council of 9 Cardinals who meet several times a year to advise the Holy Father on various issues, including the running of the Roman Curia.

He noted that, althougb Pope Francis tirelessly proclaims the joy of the Gospel worldwide, “as he himself has told us, the greatest risk in the world today, with its multiple and overwhelming consumption, is an individualistic sorrow that springs from a comfortable and covetous heart, a feeble search for superficial pleasures, an isolated consciousness. Sometimes it saddens us to hear how the world has focused on this Synod as if we came together as two opposing sides to defend entrenched positions.”

Cardinal Maradiaga urged courage of heart for “We are not a Church in danger of extinction or indeed far less. Neither is the family, although it is threatened and opposed. Nor do we come to mourn or lament the difficulties. … Let us all have one mind: let us all seek the unanimity that comes from dialogue, not ideas defended at all costs. … It is time to know how to plan a culture that favors dialogue and the pursuit of consensus and agreements as a form of encounter. We are not in need of a project of a few and for the few or an enlightened or minority that appropriates a collective sentiment.”

Pope Francis then addressed the assembly (that talk is a separate blog, entitled SYNOD FATHERS MUST “VEST OURSELVES WITH APOSTOLIC COURAGE, EVANGELICAL HUMILITY AND TRUSTING PRAYER”

Pope Francis and Cardinal Peter Erdo ( AP)


The president delegate, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris then commented that the Pope’s decision to convoke two sessions of the Synod of Bishops on the mission of the family in the contemporary world has been fruitful and that the episcopate has borne witness to this. The particular Churches have made efforts to contribute to the work by answering to the questionnaire that informed the Instrumentum Laboris. “Our Synod is led by the Church.”

The cardinal also mentioned the Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus, with which the Holy Father reformed the canonical procedures regarding the declaration of nullity of marriage, which offers valuable direction on the spirit according to which this phase of the Synod should unfold. “Without casting doubt on the sacramental tradition of our Church, nor its doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage, you invite us to share our pastoral experiences and to open the paths of mercy by which the Lord calls all those who wish to and are able to enter into a space for conversion with a view to forgiveness”.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod, explained the working methods of the Synod of Bishops in this extraordinary assembly, including the time available for interventions by the Synod Fathers –3 minutes – and the greater space accorded to the Circuli Minori, the smaller language groups, in order to foster more intense debate, as well as the importance given to contributions by couples and the relationships between the Synod and the media.

Finally, the general rapporteur, Cardinal Peter Erdo of Ezstergom-Budapest, illustrated the first part of the Instrumentum Laboris on the challenges to the family, placing them in the contemporary socio-cultural context, marked by a “flight from institutions,” thus institutional instability and the predominance of individualism and subjectivism.

He then spoke about Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the issue of communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, saying a “merciful pastoral accompaniment is due” in these cases but no one can doubt “the truth of indissolubility of marriage, taught by Jesus Christ himself.” He noted, “It is not the failure of the first marriage but living in a second relationship that impedes access to the Eucharist.”

The Hungarian cardinal also mentioned the “wounded” families saying they must be welcomed and helped in the context of mercy and truth.

On the question of people who have “homosexual tendencies,” he said, “it must be repeated that every person should be respected in their dignity, independent of their sexual tendency. It is desirable that pastoral programs might set aside a particular attention to the families in which persons with homosexual tendencies live.”

Cardinal Erdo stressed that, “to face today’s challenges to the family, the Church must convert and become more alive, more personal, and more community-based, also at the levels of the parish and the small community. It would appear that a community reawakening is already in process in many areas.”



Monday morning, Pope Francis addressed the opening session of the Synod of Bishops on the family and said the work of the synod must be marked by frankness and courage. He said, “the synod is a journey undertaken with a spirit of collegiality, courageously adopting parrhesia, pastoral and doctrinal zeal, wisdom and frankness and always putting the good of the Church and families and the health of souls before our eyes… We (synod) fathers should practice apostolic courage, evangelical humility and faithful oration.”

Parrhesia is one way of saying “free speech.” It is actually a figure of speech meaning to speak candidly, something that Pope Francis urged the synod fathets to do last year, and is urging them to do again in this second synod on the family.


The Holy Father started by saying, “I should mention that the Synod is neither a convention, nor a visiting room, nor a parliament or senate, where people make deals and reach compromises. The Synod is rather an Ecclesial expression, i.e., the  Church that journeys together to read reality with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God; it is the Church that interrogates herself with regard to her fidelity to the deposit of faith, which does not represent for the Church a museum to view, nor even something merely to safeguard, but is a living source from which the Church shall drink, to satisfy the thirst of, and illuminate, the deposit of life.”

Francis went on to say, “The Synod moves necessarily within the bosom of the Church and of the holy people of God, to which we belong in the quality of shepherds – which is to say, as servants. The Synod also is a protected space in which the Church experiences the action of the Holy Spirit….”

However, the Pope warned that “the Synod will be a space for the action of the Holy Spirit only if we participants vest ourselves with apostolic courage, evangelical humility and trusting prayer: with that apostolic courage, which refuses to be intimidated in the face of the temptations of the world – temptations that tend to extinguish the light of truth in the hearts of men, replacing it with small and temporary lights; nor even before the petrification of some hearts, which, despite good intentions, drive people away from God; apostolic courage to bring life and not to make of our Christian life a museum of memories; evangelical humility that knows how to empty itself of conventions and prejudices in order to listen to brother bishops and be filled with God – humility that leads neither to finger-pointing nor to judging others, but to hands outstretched to help people up without ever feeling oneself superior to them.”

Francis stressed the importance of prayer, of being silent “in order to listen to the gentle voice of God, which speaks in silence. Without listening to God, all our words are only words that are meet no need and serve no end. Without letting ourselves be guided the Spirit, all our decisions will be but decorations that, instead of exalting the Gospel, cover it and hide it.”

The Pope closed by thanking staff of the Synod of Bishops, the presidents delegate on duty, the Realtor General and he also had the following words for the media: “I want to address a special thanks to the journalists present at this time and to those who follow us from afar. Thank you for your enthusiastic participation and for your admirable attention.”