From Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s October 15 blog:


“We need to draw more deeply on the Bible in shaping our vision of marriage and the family and the way we speak about them. This doesn’t mean just sticking a few more quotes from Scripture into the text.”


Yesterday morning the Pope wasn’t in the Synod Hall because he was out in the rain in St Peter’s Square at the General Audience. I thought he might say something about the Synod, but he didn’t. Perhaps he thought it would be premature or that his words, whatever they were, would be pounced upon and misinterpreted in a way that wouldn’t be helpful at this delicate midpoint of the Synod process.

Benedict XVI learnt the hard way how the words of a Pope can be misread: think of his Regensburg address which would have been perfectly OK in an academic common room but which really stirred the pot given it was the Pope who was speaking. When I was working in the Vatican Secretariat of State, helping to prepare and finalise texts for the Pope, the golden rule was: “when in doubt, leave it out”. In other words, if there’s any chance that this or that text may be misread or turned against the Pope, “drop it”.

Interestingly, Pope Francis decided to offer a public apology for some recent – and unspecified – mishaps that have happened in the Vatican and perhaps the Church more broadly. You can speculate about what exactly he had in mind; it was hard to know exactly. Perhaps his point was simply to have the Pope say sorry in public. That’s not something Popes have done too often.

I remember when Pope John Paul proposed the Day of Pardon during the Great Jubilee of 2000, saying sorry publicly for the Church’s sins over two millennia, there were voices of disquiet, even complaint – at least in the Vatican. Some of these voices were worried that if you started saying sorry, where and when would it stop. As it turned out, there was something to this because, after the Day of Pardon had been celebrated, all kinds of groups and individuals wrote to the Pope saying: “what about us? You left us out”.

Click here to read the rest of Archbishop Coleridge’s blog: http://brisbanecatholic.org.au/articles/on-the-road-together-field-of-god/


(Vatican Radio) Oct 15. “The Polish Episcopal Conference does not support the notion of admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to the Eucharist,” said Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki at the daily Synod briefing. Following is a report on that briefing by VR’s Fr. Russell Pollitt SJ:

Archbishop Gadecki, President of the Polish Episcopal Conference, and Archbishop Carlos Aquiar Retes of Mexico, were guests at the briefing. Holy See Press spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, told the media that there had been about 93 interventions on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning in the General Assembly. Fr. Lombardi was joined by four language assistants who sit in on the synod meetings.

Fr. Lombardi explained that the delegates would continue to make interventions on part three of Intrumentum Laboris on Thursday afternoon. On Friday the auditors and fraternal delegates will be given time to make their interventions.

On Friday there will be two media briefings at the Holy See Press Office: one on Sunday’s canonization of the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin, at 11:00 am and the daily Synod briefing at 1 pm.

The interventions made at the Synod assembly spanned many issues. Some of these included: the need to defend Church doctrine and ensure we are faithful to the tradition of the Church; correct understanding of Scripture texts; clarification of Church teaching on marriage; a possible catechetical pathway for accompanying the divorced and remarried; the important role that the sacrament of reconciliation plays; the teaching of the Church on sin should be highlighted and not lost; the complexities of inter-faith, inter-cultural, inter-religious and multi-racial marriages; the trafficking of women and children and the suffering of couples who are not able to have children – adoption was spoken about in such cases.

The formation of priests for pastoral accompaniment was also addressed. If young men do not have a good experience of family and are not given adequate formation, they will not be effective ministers. Young men need to be taught the “art of friendship” so that they can accompany families on the pathway to holiness.

The issue of the admission to the Eucharist for the divorced and remarried was discussed extensively. Archbishop Gadecki said that the Polish position was clear, “We do not support a process of admitting the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist, we believe in the current annulment process.”

He said that there were many ways in which people in second unions could participate in the life of the Church without receiving the Eucharist. “People can participate in different forms and bear witness to the hardships of family life.” Gadecki added that remarried divorcees had the “right to participate” in the life of the Church without receiving the Eucharist.

It was reported that some interventions in the Synod Assembly made it clear that admitting remarried people to the Eucharist would not be an “indiscriminate process” but a carefully structured one. Divorce must always be seen as a tragedy for the family. The Church should not punish those who are weak but find ways of helping them. Many of the interventions underlined that it was not a doctrinal change that was sought but a change in pastoral attitude.

Archbishop Retes said that the Holy Father has shown the Church what attitude we should have: that of mercy towards everyone. He said that this was the mission of the Church and, in the family, people should “taste” the love of God.

There were other interventions about the serious problems related to inter-religious marriages in Africa and Asia. However, many delegates said that the positive side of this was that it opened the door to dialogue with people of other religions who were married to Catholics.

The media were told that some interventions had thanked the Holy Father for his Moto Proprio that made annulments more accessible. He was also thanked for teaching ministers of the Church how to smile when pasturing God’s people.


(Vatican Radio) ‘Mission impossible’ was how Fr Federico Lombardi on Thursday described the task of trying to sum up the dozens of daily interventions by participants in the Synod of Bishops on the Family, currently coming to the close of its second week in the Vatican’s Synod Hall.

Friday will mark the final day of presentations on part three of the Synod’s working document, before participants move back into their small groups to decide on final changes they’d like to see reflected in a concluding document on marriage and family life.

Philippa Hitchen has been listening to the bishops as they seek to draw together some very diverging points of view and reports …

“The way of Jesus or the way of Walter Kasper”, was how one disgruntled bishop was overheard describing the divisions at the start of this Synod, painting the retired German cardinal into the role of reluctant cheerleader for the perceived ‘progressive’ wing of the Church. It was Kasper’s book on mercy that Pope Francis quoted in his first Angelus address, and it was he whom the Pope asked to speak about the challenges facing the family at the very start of the lengthy Synod process. The cardinal’s suggestion of exploring new ways to show mercy and readmit divorced and remarried Catholics to the Eucharist, through a path of penance and reconciliation, alarmed those who saw it as an overturning of doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage.

While Pope Francis explicitly asked bishops not to see this as the only theme of the Synod, the past two weeks of discussions have highlighted this fault line, with many bishops speaking out firmly in favour of defending unchanging truths, while others have pleaded for a more merciful and compassionate approach to those in both second marriages and in same-sex relationships.

But as participants move towards the crucial process of summing up their three weeks’ work, I’m increasingly hearing a desire to overcome that divide, to bridge the gap and to see these apparent extremes as simply two sides of the same coin. Just as Jesus was both teacher and pastor, and John XXIII described the Church in his encylical as both mother and teacher, so today’s Church leaders must learn to teach clearly, while offering the unqualified warmth and welcome that a parent shows to his or her child.

Faced with different attitudes and changing legislation on marriage and the family, one Latin American bishop said, the Church can neither shut herself up in a ghetto, nor dilute her beliefs, but rather she must learn to engage with a new attitude of understanding and respect for those who hold very different views. And as one Asian prelate put it, Pope Francis himself has shown the way forward, by teaching through a welcoming presence, a listening heart and a discerning spirit.