(VIS) – Married couples are participating as auditors in this year’s synod dedicated to the family, presenting their concrete experiences as couples, parents or grandparents before the assembly of cardinals, bishops, priests and experts.

On 5 October the assembly heard the testimony of a Mexican couple, Gertrudiz Clara Rubio de Galindo and Andres Salvador Galindo, executive secretaries of the Episcopal Commission for the Family of the Episcopal Conference, secretaries of CELAM for the Mexico-Central America zone.


On 6 October, during the third General Congregation, the synod heard from Buysile Patronella Nkosi and Meshack Jabulani Nkosi, members of the Advisory Committee for the National Family Desk of the Southern African Episcopal Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Rubio de Galindo and Galindo Lopez have been married for 45 years and have two children and four grandchildren. They commented that the early years of their marriage were difficult due in particular to the economic problems they encountered, and some relatives even advised them to separate for this reason. “In spite of insistence to the contrary, Andres and I decided to fight against the imbalance that this had caused and to persevere with our marriage and the family we had started to raise, although we took this decision without a clear awareness of what the sacrament of marriage meant”, said Gertrudiz Clara Rubio de Galindo.

“Shortly after, thanks to God we had the opportunity to have an experience with the Encuentro Matrimonial Catolico, in which we learned to communicate, to forgive, but above all to understand God’s plan for us as a married couple and as a family. And we continue to fight for our relationship, but now with more awareness, in accordance with God’s plan”.

“Years later, in other period of economic difficulty, after visiting the Basilica of Guadalupe, we decided to collaborate with the family pastoral ministry of the diocese. This decision led us to contribute in various parts of Central America, where throughout the years we have seen that the great problems that occur within families are caused by social, cultural, political, educational, economic and religious factors, and if marriage and the family are weakened, they need to be resuscitated through formation and teaching in terms of its identity and mission”.

Therefore, Rubio de Galindo concluded, the pastoral care of the family in the third millennium requires “pastors impassioned by God’s plan”, who accompany and form families so that they may discover and experience “their identity and mission”.

On 6 October the Synod Fathers heard the story of Meshack Jabulani and Buysile Patronella Nkosi, married for 35 years and with five children and eight grandchildren. Three of their children, Meshack Jabulani said, are married with non-Catholics and so they “are walking in two faiths but one love”. One of their sons-in-law and their daughter-in-law intend to convert to Catholicism and in Easter 2016 they will be welcomed into the Catholic Church.

During the last 33 years they have accompanied many young people with whom they have shared their life experience, the Word of God and the teachings of the Church. “We pass on the Good News of the love of God for us through His Son Jesus Christ, and we in our life every day try through God’s grace to become good news to each other and to young couples and the world. This is made possible by letting the Word of God, Christ Himself, be our compass”.

“We have and have had our numerous challenges, of perhaps not seeing things the same way or hurting each other in one way or another but our redemption has always been to try to be humble enough to say ‘I am sorry’. As in the words of the Holy Father, ‘pardon me, thank you and may I please’ are indispensable words if we are to live in peace and harmony in our family. It is important to remember to say ‘I love you’ to each other and to the children. Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical ‘Caritas in Veritate’, emphasises the importance of love as the principle of life in society, the place where a person learns common good since the family is the first place where a new person learns to love, to forgive, experiences forgiveness and learns to share”.

“The choice we made 35 years ago is the choice we continue to make every day to care for each other in the family and to be faithful to each other as we committed to love forever. To modern society, which unfortunately has developed a ‘throwaway culture’, this kind of commitment seems to be utter foolishness and is ridiculed and discouraged. Young people then tend to be afraid to get married, and look at this commitment as a burden. Part of our calling is to encourage them to enter into the journey of holy matrimony looking at Christ as their new hope”.

“We have experienced new life being born, and have seen our parents giving us support in raising our children. We have also seen them getting older and more frail and have taken care of them until they passed on. We have seen our children develop to parenthood themselves and us assuming a supportive role for them and their families. We continue to pass on our faith, all the Christian values and the culture of ‘Ubuntu’ – humaneness. This brings joy and fulfilment and has made our lives richer and fuller through the grace of God”, concluded Nkosi.



The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis intends to visit Mexico next year, including a visit to the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine. No dates were given. It is expected that Francis will also visit his native Argentina for the first time since his March 2013 election. Definitely on his 2016 agenda will be his trip to Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day in July.


At his weekly general audience, Pope Francis told the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square that, “during the Synod of Bishops, I would like to reflect on some aspects of the profound relationship between the Church and the family, with a view to the common good of society.”

AG - Ocober 7

“When families journey along the way of the Lord,” said the Pope, “they offer a fundamental witness to God’s love, and they deserve the full commitment and support of the Church.  In the family we learn of the bonds which unite us, of fidelity, sincerity, trust, cooperation and respect, even when difficulties abound.  Indeed it is in family life that the most vulnerable of society are cared for.  And yet, political and economic life today does not always support the family, and seems to have lost the ability to incorporate the virtues of family life into the common life of society.  Here the Church is called to exercise her mission by first examining to what extent she is living as the family of God.”

Francis explained that. “like Saint Peter, the Church is called to be a fisher of men, and so too needs a new type of net.  Families are this net.  They free us from the sea of loneliness and indifference, so that we can all experience the freedom of being children of God.  May the Church go out into the deep, confident that the catch will be great.  And may the Synod Fathers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, encourage the Church to cast out her net with confidence and faith in the Word of God.”

In greetings to English-language pilgrims, the Holy Father said, “I ask you to continue to pray for the Synod on the Family, and to recommit your families to Christ. May you always be witnesses to his mercy and love in the world. God bless you all!”

Pope Francis will hold two more Wednesday general audiences during the time of the synod on the family.



I really love this! I have joined together two recent tweets Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa:

One who works with his hands is a labourer. One who works with his hands & head is a craftsman. One who works with his hands, head & heart is an artist.


This afternoon the Synod Fathers and invited guests moved into small language group discussions, following the General Congregations of Monday and of Tuesday morning where a total of 72 Synod Father gaves talks, each limited to just three minutes.

A press briefing was held at 1 pm in the Holy See Press Office. It was moderated by Fr. Federico Lombardi, in the presence of two Synod Fathers, Archbishops Claudio Maria Celli of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, and translators for English, French, Spanish and German.

Fr. Lombardi noted the Pope’s presence at this morning’s General Congregation and that he asked to speak briefly, following remarks by Cardinal Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, who had previously explained “certain processes of the methodology” of the synod and new elements. In fact, some of the “new elements” in the synod process were troubling to many Synod Fathers, especially those who had attended previous synods. (photo SYNOD DAY 2

Fr. Lombardi said, “The Holy Father thought it important to say that what we are doing here must be seen as a continuation of last year.” The Pope stressed that the group work is going to be very important. Francis also reminded the Fathers that “Catholic doctrine on marriage was not called into question in the previous sitting of the Synod” and that “the Synod is not about one single issue – Eucharist for the divorced and remarried – but many issues and we must take them all into account.”

Three of the issues troubling Synod Fathers about the new synod process include: the absence of an interim report, the fact that the speeches in the synod hall will not be released, so the public will not have a chance to read what participants actually said but will have to rely on press conferences and briefings and, perhaps the most worrisome matter: there will be no concluding propositions voted on by the bishops.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, an English-speaking assistant to Fr. Lombardi, said the comments made by the Synod Fathers were brief, as three minutes is the maximum time. One Father called this a “tweet-like speech time.”

It was noted at the briefing that some participants were disturbed by the fact that so much emphasis seemed to be brought to bear on the negatives involving family and marriage –divorce, communion for the divorced and remarried, etc. Fr. Rosica said, in his summary of the General Congregation, that one of the Fathers suggested that we acknowledge the “beauty and joy” of family life. He added: “Some of the interventions suggested we should be more inclusionary in our language, especially in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Gay persons are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, neighbors and colleagues.”

Asked if the question of the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to communion was still open to discussion. Archbishop Celli said that the issue was open. A number of both participants and members of the media felt that Cardinal Peter Erdo, in his talk yesterday, had closed the door to certain topics, or that he was suggesting some solutions had already been found.

Another journalist asked if the reception of the Eucharist by divorced and remarried persons was a “doctrine or a discipline.” Archbishop Durocher replied by saying that different people may see this differently and that it was part of the work of the Synod to discuss this. He did say that the bishops are united in acknowledging that there is a gap between contemporary culture and church teaching.

Archbishop Celli agreed, adding it was important for the church to find ways of entering into dialogue with the world. “We need to speak about what the Church teaches but must also avoid a ghetto mentality.”

Fr. Lombardi was asked if Pope Francis was going to participate in a small group. He said that the Pope did not normally attend small groups but that he was a Pope of surprises so “he may also surprise us!”



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.”


Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi –San Francesco – and thus the Holy Father’s name day, onomastico in Italian! Many best wishes, Pope Francis! May God sit on your shoulder!


Pope Francis’ homily at the Mass today to open the Synod of Bishops on the family was a beautiful and masterful weaving of three themes – solitude, love between man and woman, and the family – into a tapestry that defines the Church’s teaching on love, marriage and the family, and also lays out some guidelines for the Synod Fathers as they discuss these issues over the next three weeks.

He spoke in the midst of hundreds of Synod Fathers and invited guests who will participate in the work sessions of the synod on the family, starting tomorrow. St. Peter’s basilica was awash in green flowers and vestments, the liturgical color for Ordinary Time, and the red and fuschia zucchettos of cardinals, archbishops and bishops. (photo: ANSA)


“In (today’s) extremely difficult social and marital context,” said Francis, “the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love.” While the synod should adhere to the Church’s Magisterium, its body of teaching – on marriage, for example, as a permanent, indissoluble union between a man and a woman – Synod Fathers should be open to showing understanding, mercy and charity when situations place the faithful in difficult, perhaps seemingly impossible, situations.

The Pope reiterated his oft used image of the Church being a “field hospital with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support; even more, to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation.”

The entire homily follows and will not take long to read. What will take some time are the pauses to reflect on and digest some of his powerful phrases, to re-think his words later in the day. And why not discuss them in your family! This is what the synod is all about –family!

“If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” ( 1 Jn 4:12).

This Sunday’s Scripture readings seem to have been chosen precisely for this moment of grace which the Church is experiencing: the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family, which begins with this Eucharistic celebration. The readings centre on three themes: solitude, love between man and woman, and the family .


Adam, as we heard in the first reading, was living in the Garden of Eden. He named all the other creatures as a sign of his dominion, his clear and undisputed power, over all of them. Nonetheless, he felt alone, because “there was not found a helper fit for him” ( Gen 2:20). He was lonely.

The drama of solitude is experienced by countless men and women in our own day. I think of the elderly, abandoned even by their loved ones and children; widows and widowers; the many men and women left by their spouses; all those who feel alone, misunderstood and unheard; migrants and refugees fleeing from war and persecution; and those many young people who are victims of the culture of consumerism, the culture of waste, the throwaway culture.

Today we experience the paradox of a globalized world filled with luxurious mansions and skyscrapers, but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families; many ambitious plans and projects, but little time to enjoy them; many sophisticated means of entertainment, but a deep and growing interior emptiness; many pleasures, but few loves; many liberties, but little freedom… The number of people who feel lonely keeps growing, as does the number of those who are caught up in selfishness, gloominess, destructive violence and slavery to pleasure and money.

Our experience today is, in some way, like that of Adam: so much power and at the same time so much loneliness and vulnerability. The image of this is the family. People are less and less serious about building a solid and fruitful relationship of love: in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, in good times and in bad. Love which is lasting, faithful, conscientious, stable and fruitful is increasingly looked down upon, viewed as a quaint relic of the past. It would seem that the most advanced societies are the very ones which have the lowest birth-rates and the highest percentages of abortion, divorce, suicide, and social and environmental pollution.

Love between man and woman

In the first reading we also hear that God was pained by Adam’s loneliness. He said: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” ( Gen 2:18). These words show that nothing makes man’s heart as happy as another heart like his own, a heart which loves him and takes away his sense of being alone. These words also show that God did not create us to live in sorrow or to be alone. He made men and women for happiness, to share their journey with someone who complements them, to live the wondrous experience of love: to love and to be loved, and to see their love bear fruit in children, as the Psalm proclaimed today says (cf. Ps 128).

This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self. It is the same plan which Jesus presents in today’s Gospel: “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh” ( Mk 10:6-8; cf. Gen 1:27; 2:24).

To a rhetorical question – probably asked as a trap to make him unpopular with the crowd, which practiced divorce as an established and inviolable fact – Jesus responds in a straightforward and unexpected way. He brings everything back to the beginning, to the beginning of creation, to teach us that God blesses human love, that it is he who joins the hearts of two people who love one another, he who joins them in unity and indissolubility. This shows us that the goal of conjugal life is not simply to live together for life, but to love one another for life! In this way Jesus re-establishes the order which was present from the beginning.


“What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” ( Mk 10:9). This is an exhortation to believers to overcome every form of individualism and legalism which conceals a narrow self-centredness and a fear of accepting the true meaning of the couple and of human sexuality in God’s plan.

Indeed, only in the light of the folly of the gratuitousness of Jesus’ paschal love will the folly of the gratuitousness of an exclusive and life-long conjugal love make sense. For God, marriage is not some adolescent utopia, but a dream without which his creatures will be doomed to solitude! Indeed, being afraid to accept this plan paralyzes the human heart.

Paradoxically, people today – who often ridicule this plan – continue to be attracted and fascinated by every authentic love, by every steadfast love, by every fruitful love, by every faithful and enduring love. We see people chase after fleeting loves while dreaming of true love; they chase after carnal pleasures but desire total self-giving. “Now that we have fully tasted the promises of unlimited freedom, we begin to appreciate once again the old phrase: “world-weariness”. Forbidden pleasures lost their attraction at the very moment they stopped being forbidden. Even if they are pushed to the extreme and endlessly renewed, they prove dull, for they are finite realities, whereas we thirst for the infinite” (JOSEPH RATZINGER, Auf Christus schauen. Einübung in Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe, Freiburg, 1989, p. 73).

In this extremely difficult social and marital context, the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love.

To carry out her mission in fidelity to her Master as a voice crying out in the desert, in defending faithful love and encouraging the many families who live married life as an experience which reveals of God’s love; in defending the sacredness of life, of every life; in defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously.

The Church is called to carry out her mission in truth, which is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions. The truth which protects individuals and humanity as a whole from the temptation of self-centredness and from turning fruitful love into sterile selfishness, faithful union into temporary bonds. “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love” (BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate , 3).

And the Church is called to carry out her mission in charity, not pointing a finger in judgment of others, but – faithful to her nature as a mother – conscious of her duty to seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy; to be a “field hospital” with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support; even more, to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation.

A Church which teaches and defends fundamental values, while not forgetting that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” ( Mk 2:27); and that Jesus also said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” ( Mk 2:17). A Church which teaches authentic love, which is capable of taking loneliness away, without neglecting her mission to be a good Samaritan to wounded humanity .

I remember when Saint John Paul II said: “Error and evil must always be condemned and opposed; but the man who falls or who errs must be understood and loved… we must love our time and help the man of our time” (JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Members of Italian Catholic Action , 30 December 1978). The Church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them, for a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock: “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren” ( Heb 2:11).

In this spirit we ask the Lord to accompany us during the Synod and to guide his Church, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse.


Just a note about the two synod stories I present at the end of this column. The first story is my brief summary of a lengthy press briefing this morning about the Synod of Bishops that will open Sunday.

The second piece, The Synod for the Family: Listen to Africa’s Voice, is that one you absolutely want and need to read, perhaps over coffee or, if you do this later in the day, a glass of wine. Sit down in a quiet place (I know I ask you do that a lot but you will absorb a lot more if you can read this in a quiet corner). So much was said and written during and after last October’s synod on the family and in recent months in the leadup to this 2015 synod. Much was said and much confusion was sown as well.

The same questions are on people’s minds today as they were a year ago: What are the Church’s true teachings on marriage and the family? What is the Magisterium teaching on the family and marriage? What can be said or done for/about the divorced and remarried who want to receive communion? Are there traditions that can change with the times, even if dogma and the Magisterium cannot (for example, on the indissolubility of marriage).

Many of the voices that spoke loudly and with beauty about the family and marriage in the synod hall last year came from Africa. A new book on this synod is out by some African prelates and Andrea Gagliarducci does a masteful job of presenting their voices in his article for Catholic News Agency.


You are in for a real treat this weekend on the Vatican Insider interview segment as I welcome another member of the EWTN Rome family, 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.

This is a special treat so make sure you find time this weekend to join us for Part 1 of that conversation.

From an appearance on News Nightly:

Alan Holdren

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 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:


(Vatican Radio) Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the head of the Holy See Press Office has released a statement on the brief meeting between Kim Davis and Pope Francis during his visit to Washington, DC.:

“The brief meeting between Mrs. Kim Davis and Pope Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC has continued to provoke comments and discussion. In order to contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired I am able to clarify the following points:

“Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.

“The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.”


Pope Francis has sent a personal letter to a young boy taking part in a “mission of peace” to the Marian sanctuary at Lourdes. Christopher Wells of Vatican Radio reported that 8-year-old Damian had written to the Pope, inviting him to Lourdes to be with the children taking part in the Mission, which was sponsored by UNITALSI, an Italian organization that helps sick people travel to Lourdes and other international sanctuaries. Pope Francis responded to Damian’s request for a video message with a personal letter that was read during the Eucharistic procession at Lourdes on Wednesday, on the occasion of the Tenth Pilgrimage of Children on the Mission of Peace.

In his message, the Holy Father assured the children that he was accompanying them in prayer, and was spiritually close to them. He asked the children to share with Mary and Jesus their expectations, hopes, joys, and sufferings, and to “trust in the help of Jesus and the support of Mary.” “Your mission is both a prayer and a testimony. You show adults that children are able to pray, to love Jesus, the friend who never betrays, to help each other, to hope for a better future.”

The Pope concluded his letter by asking the children to pray for all children who are attempting to make the voyage to Lourdes, and to pray, too, for him.


A briefing was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office about the Synod of Bishops on the family that starts this Sunday with a Mass presided over by Pope Francis. Last year’s two-week extraordinary synod in October focused on the family and this year’s three-week gathering continued that discussion but on the specific theme, “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world.”

A lengthy presentation outlined the number and provenance of Synod Fathers, listed the religious and lay invited guests and outlined the methodology of this gathering of the world’s bishops, The synod this year marks the 50th anniversary of its constitution by Blessed Paul VI.

Saturday evening in St. Peter’s Square, in the presence of the Holy Father, a prayer vigil will be held in preparation for the Synod of Bishops. Synod Fathers will attend, as will other participants in the Synod and thousands of faithful from around the world. This is an initiative of the Italian Episcopal Conference, which has invited families, movements and ecclesial associations. All of Italy’s dioceses, in fact, are sending busses that will be filled with families.

A total of 270 Synod Fathers will participate in this 2015assembly, including 54 from Africa, 64 from the Americsa, 36 from Asia, 107 from Europe and 9 from Oceania. They include: 74 cardinals, 6 Patriarchs, 1 major archbishop, 72 archbishops, 102 bishops, 2 parish priests and 13 religious. In addition, other invitees from different cultures and nations include 24 experts and collaborators of the special secretary, 51 auditors and 14 fraternal delegates. As this synod is dedicated to the family, particular importance is given to spouses, parents and family heads, of whom a total of 18 are present

After a lengthy explanation of the synod methodology, it was announced that, on Saturday October 17, from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm, there will be a commemorative event for the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops in the Paul VI Hall. The commemorative report will be entrusted to Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna and president of the Episcopal Conference of Austria.

On Sunday October 18 at 10:30 am in the Vatican Basilica, there will be a Mass for the canonization of, among others, the Blessed spouses Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guérin, parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Each day, in St. Mary Major Basilica, the Holy Rosary will be recited at 5 p.m. and Mass will be celebrated at 6. Near the Synod Hall there is a chapel for prayer for the participants in the Synod, where the relics of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, her parents and the Beltrame Quattrocchi spouses will be displayed.


(CNA/EWTN News) – Andrea Gagliarducci- Ten prelates from Africa have stood up against a pastoral approach to new challenges to marriage and the family that would effectively modify the Church’s doctrine, by writing essays for a book meant to be a “contribution to the Synod onf the Family by African pastors.”

This is the subtitle of Christ’s New Homeland – Africa, published this week by Ignatius Press, and which features a preface by Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

In the book, cardinals and bishops from Africa tackles the main issues of the upcoming Synod on the Family; shed light on shortcomings in the synod’s instrumentum laboris (working document); stress the importance of formation of Christians; and face challenges such as polygamy and interreligious marriages.

Above all, the African prelates claim the importance of their continent in facing secularizing trends, and explain that a strong faith is the best response to them.

The book is divided in three parts: “The Synod on the Family: From one Assembly to Another”; “The Gospel of the Family”; and “Pastoral Care of Families that are Hurting”. There is also an epilogue, an “Appeal from the Church in Africa to the State”, which explains why governments should support families.

The books contributors are Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship; Bishop Barthélemy Adoukonou, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Archbishop Denis Amuzu-Dzakpah of Lomé; Cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo of Ouagadougou; Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa; Cardinal Christian Tumi, Archbishop Emeritus of Douala; Archbishop Antoine Ganye of Cotonou; Cardinal Théodore-Adrien Sarr, Archbishop Emeritus of Dakar; Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Douala; and Cardinal Jean-Pierre Kutwa of Abidjan. (photo by CNA)

Cardinal Sarah –


The first part of the book is constituted by two essays, by Cardinal Sarah and Bishop Adoukonou, critiquing the instrumentum laboris of the upcoming synod.

Both found numerous deficiencies – “slippery language” and “treacherous expressions” among them –  in the synod’s working document, and underscored the role the  media has played in discussions leading up to the synod.

According to Cardinal Sarah, “the media coverage of this debate gives the impression that, on the one hand, there are those who are in favor of ‘closed doctrine’ and, on the other hand, those who are for ‘pastoral openness’.”The cardinal underscored, “in reality, there is no doctrinal party opposed to a pastoral party; instead, both parties claim to be attached to the Church’s perennial doctrine and want pastoral practice to express God’s mercy toward everyone … Might there be some, then, who would argue for the continuation of a pastoral practice that, if it changed, would ipso facto modify the doctrine?

Cardinal Sarah added that “new developments in pastoral practice would not mean changing doctrine, they maintain, but rather would allow the Church to make God’s loving heart more apparent and accessible.” He countered, however, that such “developments” would be “a sort of ‘mercy’ that accomplishes nothing but lets them seek deeper into evil.”

“But could they seriously think that the bishops and cardinals who were warning about a real danger of doctrinal deviation have a fixed concept of pastoral practice? If God’s pedagogy changes, that of the Church should not become rigid,” concluded the prefect.

He noted that the media who push for a change to pastoral practice “forget to say that now most practicing Christians are found no longer in the Northern Hemisphere but rather in the Young Churches.”

Cardinal Sarah also highlighted some “perplexities” raised by the synod’s working document, especially as it seems to propose civil marriage as a preparation for  sacramental marriage.

“To what population does the document address this reality of civil marriages as a preparation for sacramental marriage? To the baptized members of the Church or to sympathetic pagans in areas where an initial evangelization is being conducted? Unless it applies to the neo-pagans in the countries of former Christendom!”

Set God and doctrine aside, and you create a major pastoral confusion,” Cardinal Sarah wrote.

Cardinal Sarah also underscored that “the Church’s pastoral ministry, as her pastors strive to conduct it in the Young Churches, has never outlawed from the community those who are in difficult marital situations. On the contrary, in most cases, they are active members in ecclesial life.”

He then explained that “the fact that they do not go to sacramental Communion – which is not in their view a simple communal meal from which they would feel excluded – nevertheless does not diminish their profound desire to serve Jesus and his ecclesial community.”

According to Cardinal Sarah, “the lack of a clear position and all the confusion that we note in the relatio synodi are obvious signs, not only of a deep crisis of faith, but also of an equally deep crisis in pastoral practice: pastors hesitate to set out clearly in one direction.”

The instrumentum laboris, he said, reflects the malaise of the Church in the West, and that were the Church to allow the divorced-and-remarried to receive Communion, “why would we reject the lay faithful who had become polygamous? We would also have to remove ‘adultery’ from the list of sins.”

Bishop Adoukonou wrote that “the fundamental methodological limitation that we observe in the document lies in the fact that it utilizes the resources of almost all the human and social sciences to put into context the topic of the family today without bringing to light the most important background, namely, the historical choices that led to this disaster.”

A clear position is needed, says Bishop Adookonou. Citing the rise of the Islamic State caliphate, similar efforts in the Sahel and that “other extremist movements seek to set up radical Islamic regimes everywhere, which confuse decadent Western civilization with Christianity, we have the obligation to set ourselves apart from that postmodern civilization, not out of fear or by way of withdrawing into our own enclaves, but out of fidelity to our deep Christian and African identity,” he wrote.

And he added: “For the sake of attracting people, we do not want to put ourselves into situations that would compromise our values, under the illusion of being open to the world in that way.”

Bishop Adokonou also declared that, “conscious more than ever of this interdependence, Africa would like to remind the Church in the West that she could not possibly engage in a hermetically sealed dialogue with the postmodern world, while ridiculing other countries as though they were trapped in various forms of obscurantism that no one understands, without seriously compromising her faith and Christian roots.”

The archbishop deems “unacceptable” the idea – contained in the Synod’s working document – that “the Gospel in itself is a burden from which the Church, out of mercy, ought to strive to relieve our poor contemporaries.”

He went so far as to suggest that a section of the document “contains elements that are highly debatable and even in contradiction with Catholic doctrine.”

Cardinal Souphraniel highlighted the Church’s importance in providing a correct education about marriage and family.

The Church, he wrote, “prepares young couples for marriage. She provides religious education for children grades 1–12. She makes available Catholic schools from kindergarten to the university level, where truths of the faith and moral truths are part of the learning experience. She provides classes in Natural Family Planning, family counseling, and pastoral care, especially in the sacrament of reconciliation and forgiveness. She counteracts such contemporary trends as hedonism, abortion, euthanasia, and value-free sex education.”

But the most important thing is that “she provides the sacraments, whereby every man, woman, and child can obtain the spiritual help he needs to resist temptation, to pursue virtuous living, and to grow in the worship and praise of God,” Cardinal Souphraniel underscored.

Archbishop Kleda also shed light on the lack of education, especially for couples. In his words, “one last form of suffering that can be observed involves couples who are not well prepared for marriage, who have not understood the meaning of family life and have not agreed to give themselves totally to each other.”

In the end, explains Cardinal Kutwa, “The family is and remains, in Africa as elsewhere in the world, society’s most precious resource. It is the place where one learns the importance of oneself, certainly, but also the importance of the other. No one is born alone and for himself alone.”

This is one of the many reasons Cardinal Kutwa provides to explain why the state should support family.

But the real, final rationale of the book is that of setting the core on Christian families who are fully living their vocation as Christian families.

“The beautiful Christian families that are heroically living out the demanding values of the Gospel are today the real peripheries of our world and of our societies, which are going through life as though God did not exist,” wrote Cardinal Sarah.