Join me this weekend on Vatican Insider when I offer Part II of my conversation with Alan Holdren. Alan heads the Rome office of CNA, Catholic News Agency, is the correspondent for EWTN News Nightly that airs five days a week from Washington, and he produces – with the help of a terrific staff here in Rome – EWTN’s weekly news magazine, “Vaticano.” Alan and I talk about his special privilege of being a member of the media aboard the papal flight to Cuba and the United States. This is a Do Not Miss conversation. Part I aired last weekend. photo

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Friday morning, at the second round of meetings in General Congregation, Pope Francis was present and he issued a strong plea for reconciliation and peace in the Middle East and Africa:



Dear Synod Fathers, dear brothers and sisters,

In resuming this morning the work of the General Congregation, I invite you to dedicate the prayer of the Third Hour to the intention of reconciliation and peace in the Middle East. We are painfully struck and we follow with great concern what is happening in Syria, in Iraq, in Jerusalem and the West Bank, where we see an escalation of violence that involves innocent civilians and continues to fuel a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions. War brings destruction and multiplies the sufferings of peoples. Hope and progress come only from choices for peace. Let us unite, therefore, in an intense and confident prayer to the Lord, a prayer that intends to be an expression of solidarity at once with [our] brother Patriarchs and Bishops from those regions, who are present here [at the Synod Assembly], as well as with their priests and faithful, and to everyone who lives there.

At the same time, together with the [whole] Synod, I send a heartfelt appeal to the international community, that the nations of the world might find a way effectively to help the parties concerned  to broaden their horizons beyond the immediate interests and to use the instruments of international law [and] diplomacy, to resolve the conflicts underway at present.

Finally, I wish to extend our prayer also to those areas of the African continent that are experiencing analogous situations of conflict. May Mary, Queen of Peace and loving Mother of her children intercede for all.


Three synod participants were present at today’s briefing for the media that was presided over by Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office: Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, the Philippines and Archbishops Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A., and Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid, Spain.

Fr. Lombardi made several annoucements for the media and also noted that, at this morning’s General Congregation, Pope Francis made a heartfelt appeal for prayers for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. (see below)

In opening remarks, Cardinal Tagle said he had been present at six synods. He said that, with the changes this year in synod methodology, he likes – and has always liked – the small language groups as they give “a fuller view of what everyone thinks.” In fact, the new synod program foresees far more time for participants in language groups than in the General Congregations where all are present. The cardinal said he was “personally very pleased” at their work and said the reports given this morning in the General Congregation, with the Holy Father present, “show freedom, respect and love for the family and the Church.”

Cardinal Tagle said he was “very impressed with the openness to diversity” in language groups, especially because, while people might be in an English group because they speak English, they might well come from different situations and cultures, “a diversity that brings complexity but does not diminish unity.” This, he said, “was the thrust of the small groups.”

The Manila archbishop said he was “also very happy to note as the synod progresses we do not turn a blind eye to challenges that surfaced last year, This synod is in continuity with last year. The challenges remain but let’s celebrate the good news of the family.” Cardinal Tagle said he heard “a positive, hopeful and celebratory tone in these reports.”

Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid reiterated that, “family is the original structure of human life.” He said he heard, in the language group reports, the “enormous desire to tell the world about the structure of the family,” quoting St. John Paul who said, “the future of humanity passes through the family.” The archbishop also highlighted “the absolute liberty of participants to speak in language groups.” Archbishop Sierra stressed that the Church should try to accompany families that immigrate more generously.

Archbishop Kurtz said this was his third synod and he was grateful to be here. “One of the things that is clear to me,” he said, “is the richness of being in the same room and in dialogue with people from every continent in the world. There is a strong sense of unity and unity in Christ.”

He said that, at this morning’s General Congregation where each of the 13 language groups gave a report of their discussions up to this point, “I spoke first and then could listen to the other groups to see if there were common threads: One of those threads was the idea of not diminishing the challenges but allowing trust in Jesus to be the first and last word on the synod.”

The archbishop quoted Pope Francis who, at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, spoke passionately off the cuff and highlighted how God came to earth and chose to live among humans, chose to be born into and live in a family.

Archbishop Kurtz, speaking about the new methodology of this 2015 synod, said “moving quickly from General Congregations to small groups is a positive step.” He also said, “it is better to talk about lights and shadows, rather than constantly using the word ‘crisis’.” He added that, “we must talk about the seeds of renewal in families, and the heroic efforts of many families who face challenging situations.”

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the final document – which will come in the third and final week of the synod – “must not be eurocentric in its tone or thrust. This has been a concern.” He said that, in his group, “we spoke about families who migrate and also about special needs people and their families, That section of Part I of the Instrumentum laboris could be a good paradigm for other sections we will discuss.”

Later, in answer to a question about the suggestions for a “new language” that should be used by the Church. Abp.Kurtz said many of the 27 amendments given by his language group “dealt with language. We have to really reach out to people. We must use words that are simpler, understandable and inspire, that touch the hearts and minds of people.” He confessed that, “there was little to inspire in the Instrumentum laboris.”

On this same point, Cardinal Tagle said, “people might speak the same language but often come from different cultures, thus words are understood differently. Catechist, for example, has different meanings in North America and Africa. …Words come from worlds. The world, of the young, for example. Does the Church really ‘talk’ to them?’

Asked about new synod structures and methodology, Cardinal Tagle agreed with the questioner that, “the new method is being tried and has caused a bit of confusion but,” he said, laughing, “sometimes being confused is good. The quality of group discussions become deeper. We have ample time to share our thoughts and experiences.” He admitted that, “another point of confusion is that in the past the language groups produced propositions but that is not the case this year.”

In fact, in a brief history lesson, Cardinal Tagle explained that the first synods called by Paul VI did not end with a papal Apostolic Exhortation but rather a document produced by the synod itself. Only with Evangelii nuntiandi in 1975 were propositions proposed by Synod Fathers and given to the Pope who eventually wrote a Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation.

Abp. Kurtz said that, “we all need patience, synod fathers and journalists. I want to see things develop well but slowly – this is a healthy process.”

He also noted that, even though there will be no propositions put forth to the Pope by synod participants, especially language groups, the Synod Fathers will “receive a document a day or two before we have to vote on it, thus we can study it.”