VATICAN INSIDER: A SYNOD COUPLE SPEAKS, PART TWO
Please tune in this weekend to “Vatican Insider” for Part Two of my conversation with Cathy and Tony Witczak, a couple from Philadephia who have been married for 48 years, are leaders in the Worldwide Marriage Encouter movement and auditors at the synod on the family They talk to me about Marriage Encounter, how they were invited to the synod, what they are hearing and seeing and what their hopes are for the post-synod period, including a papal document. They addressed the synod last week.
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POPE FRANCIS CREATES NEW VATICAN OFFICE
We have heard about this possibility for months but Thursday, at the beginning of the afternoon General Congregation of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis formalized the news with the following announcement:
“I have decided to establish a new Dicastery with competency for Laity, Family and Life, that will replace the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Pontifical Academy for Life will be joined to the new Dicastery. To this end, I have constituted a special commission that will prepare a text delineating canonically the competencies of the new Dicastery. The text will be presented for discussion to the Council of Caridnals at their next meeting in December.”
Dicastery is another word for an office of the Roman Curia, such as a pontifical council or a congregation. The new office for Laity, Family and Life, has not been given a name but indications are that it will be a congregation.
The Pontifical Council for the Laity was instituted in 1967 by Paul VI who acted on some of the suggestions from Vatican Council II that had ended in December 1965.
It seemed fitting that Pope Francis announced the new dicastery on October 22, the feast day of St. John Paul II, the Pope who created two of the above-mentioned dicasteries.
In fact, the Pontifical Council for the Family was instituted by John Paul II in 1981 with the Motu Proprio “Familia e Deo Instituta.” It substituted the Committee for the Family created by Paul VI in 1973. Thirteen years later, on February 11, 1994, St. John Paul instituted the Pontifical Academy for Life with the Motu Proprio “Vitae Mysterium.”
SYNOD FATHERS REACT TO DRAFT OF FINAL DOCUMENT
With just two days to go until the end of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, participants on Friday gave their reactions to a draft of the final document which is now being fine-tuned and will be voted on by the bishops on Saturday.
At a press conference following the Friday morning session, press office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi was joined by Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana, Canadian Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix of Quebec and Belgian Archbishop Lucas Van Looy of Ghent to talk about their hopes for the outcome of the three-week meeting.
Vatican Radio’s Philippa Hitchens reports on Friday’s press briefing:
Long days and sleepless nights is how Cardinal Turkson characterised the work of the drafting committee, currently trying to integrate over 1,350 proposals for changes to the original working document put forward by the Synod’s small groups. On top of that, there were over 50 further comments made in the Synod Hall on Friday on subjects ranging from biblical quotations, to pastoral formation to the crucial question of the relationship between the Church’s moral law and the individual’s right to follow his or her own conscience.
Is it possible to integrate so many differing perspectives without watering down the contents of the final document, journalists wanted to know? Will the substance of the debate on key issues really be reflected, or must it be sacrificed to the need for consensus that can be accepted by all? Cardinal Lacroix noted the final Synod document is not a legislative text so it doesn’t have to reflect unanimity among the Church leaders – on the contrary, he said, differences of opinion reflect a healthy engagement with the difficult issues under discussion.
Among them are the ever-present questions of how to help divorced and remarried couples be reintegrated into the life of the Church and how to approach the issue of homosexuality, which some Synod fathers suggest has not been adequately dealt with at this meeting. Not so, said Cardinal Turkson, revealing that in his small group some bishops and cardinals themselves had shared experiences of gay members of their families. The cardinal also reiterated the view of another Ghanaian participant who told journalists that attitudes in Africa on this issue are changing, faster than they are in other parts of the world.
All three participants pointed to the important experience of synodality, as outlined in the Pope’s own words, allowing bishops in the different parts of the globe greater freedom to exercise leadership, while allowing the Pope to draw on the wealth of local expertise and experience.
Archbishop Van Looy said another key word of this Synod is tenderness, heralding a new attitude of the Church to stop judging and start journeying with people in whatever situation they may find themselves. While it’s vital to support families who do live up to Church teaching, Cardinal Lacroix said there is no such thing as the perfect family and the Church must remain close to all those looking for God’s grace in times of struggle and need.