OCTOBER 22, SYNOD PRESS BRIEFING

This column is “Joan’s Rome lite” today as the commitments I have – often to be in two different places at the same time – only allow me time to write a fairly short summary of today’s press briefing with three very interesting guests from three very diverse cultures.

OCTOBER 22, SYNOD PRESS BRIEFING

Today is special in many respects and for many reasons but the first reason for so many people is that October 22 is the feast day of St. John Paul II.

In fact, Sunday, October 22, 1978 was the day that he inaugurated his pontificate, the third longest in history. St. John Paul wrote and spoke and preached extensively on the family and many have been praying to him for the success of the current synod of bishops with the family as its focus. Pope Francis, synod fathers and invited guests have been meeting for three weeks on the theme:  “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World.” Only three days remain for this gathering. Pope Francis will close the synod Sunday with Mass in St. Peter’s basilica. Work might finish here but there will be a fair amount of post-synod work for the Holy Father and others.

One of the penultimate press briefings by and about the synod of bishops on the family took place today, Thursday. Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office and secretary of the synod’s Commission for Information presided. The special guests were Cardinals Oswald Gracias of Bombay, Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. Each gave brief opening statements before answering questions.

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Cardinal Gracias, who is also one of the C9 Council of Cardinals that advises Pope Francis, said every synod he has attended is a new experience.. This time was a “true walking together with diverse opinions, different viewpoints, different cultural situations. It was “marvelous to learn all that, and also that it has been a spiritual experience.” He said, “we look to the Holy Father to give direction in our pastoral work.”  He said families are in difficulty today but there are also many good families. How do we help them become better? He said he saw in the small language groups “the deep passion of bishops for the suffering of their people.”

Cardinal Mafi noted that he was also at last years Extraordinary Synod on the Family. He said he was looking forward to this synod but was also apprehensive. “My people are waiting at home to hear from me.” He described the people of his South Pacific island nation as “very much family oriented, we have especially extended families.” Though we are somewhat isolated, he said, “globalization is also entering our world, the good and the bad of globalization, and we are now facing the challenges of globalization.

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The youngest member of the College of Cardinals said “it is a wonderful experience to listen, to hear and to learn, to learn from brother bishops in the synod, and he asked: “What are the lessons I should take from this synod…..hopefully we will learn from one another and continue to walk together in the synod.”

Later, in answer to a question, Cardinal Mafi (whose first names Soane Patita translate to John Baptist) said, “in Oceania we are in a transitional period, if you like, small little island nations, many of which became independent in the 70s and 80s. This has impacted on the family, on the traditional family values, often vulnerable in this transitional period. … Individualism is starting to come slowly to our shores. We see some family breakdown from the traditional extended structure. Material well-being can bring blessings as well as challenges. We can become very materialistic. A big concern is migration as some look for a better life. But I ask: why leave paradise? Now, whole families move overseas and break away from certain values.”

Archbishop Gomez, said “it has been a blessing to be part of this synod on the family. It has been a special grace for all of us to be together, especially as we talk of the family, so important for society and for all of humanity. We are listening and learning and hearing of different realities. We are united in this global village we live in. We are asking: how can we strengthen marriage and the family in their vocation and mission?

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The archbishop said he wish there had been more time to further discuss issues close to his heart and the hearts of many, such as poverty, migration, the role of education and many other issues. The archbishop of Los Angeles said, “I hope the final document reflects our talks.” He added, jokingly, “three weeks is enough, and we are looking forward to going back home.”

Later, answering a question about what he hoped would come of the synod, he spoke of spirituality and said, “the hope for our families is that the synod helps them find new ways to be active members of the church. Society has changed and people are so busy sometimes it is difficult to practice your faith. We need a sense of how to be good Catholics in today’s world.” And he underscored the need for unity: “we need to be united, and social media has helped people stay together, helped families in many ways to be united.” Archbishop Gomez stressed that “the people we can trust 100 percent are always family.”

Father Lombardi, having earlier joked about the fact that Hollywood is part of Abp. Gomez’ archdiocese, pointed out that Bollywood is part of Cardinal Gracias’ archdiocese.

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Cardinal Gracias, a member of the commission of ten that is preparing a document to be read and approved by the Synod Fathers and then passed on to Pope Francis, explained the various procedures involved in this. The commission has spent long hours, working very late at night and very early some mornings to get the document ready that is intended to reflect the input of the interventions given in the hall and the reflections and amendments (apparently over 500) passed on by the 13 language groups.

The cardinal mentioned that at one point, Pope Francis briefly joined their group last week, noting that, “he encouraged us but did not stay for our discussions.”

He said the group has finalized the text – they voted unanimously – to be presented this afternoon, Cardinal Erdo will give a brief presentation and the text then given to synod fathers who will meet tomorrow morning in General Congregation. We hope, he said, to have written amendments by lunch. We meet again tomorrow evening to polish the final draft on Saturday, and the plan is for it to be ready to go to whole house and we will vote paragraph by paragraph in the afternoon.

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UPDATED REPORT ON PAPAL HEALTH RUMOR – PROMISES MADE, PROMISES KEPT: FIDELITY IN MARRIAGE – DAY 14 SYNOD PRESS BRIEFING – HERE’S HOW THE SYNOD WORKS….

UPDATED REPORT ON PAPAL HEALTH RUMOR

VATICAN DENIES POPE FRANCIS HAS TUMOR

Statement from the Director of the Holy See Press Office (news.va: ANSA)

FR. FEDERICO LOMBARDI

With regard to the unfounded news on the health of the Holy Father, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., has issued the following statement:

The circulation of entirely unfounded news regarding the health of the Holy Father by an Italian newspaper is gravely irresponsible and unworthy of attention. Furthermore, as is clearly evident, the Pope is carrying out his very intense activity in an totally normal way.

AT SYNOD PRESS BRIEFING ON WEDNESDAY, Fr. Lombardi said, referring to the original article, that no Japanese doctor specializing in brain tumors ever came to the Vatican last January to see the Pope,  no helicopter ever brought a person to the Vatican. He also mentioned that, next to the article about the papal health, was an interview by the same writer with a woman doctor about tumors. She personally called Fr. Lombardi from New York, saying she saw the report of a papal tumor, knew absolutely nothing, only that a journalist had called her and asked, in a very generic way, about tumors.

PROMISES MADE, PROMISES KEPT: FIDELITY IN MARRIAGE

Some of the Synod Fathers, accompanied by faithful fom their dioceses. were at today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square where tens of thousands of pilgrims braved chilly October temperatures to hear the Holy Father talk about fidelity in marriage.

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Francis began by noting, “In our catechesis on the family, we spoke last week about the promises we make to our children by bringing them into the world. Today we consider the promise of love and fidelity made between husbands and wives, which is the basis of all family life. This promise is called into question nowadays, and seen as somehow opposed to personal freedom. Yet the truth is that our freedom is shaped and sustained by our fidelity to the choices and commitments we make throughout life. Fidelity grows through our daily efforts to keep our word; indeed, fidelity to our promises is a supreme expression of our dignity as human beings.

“A family that closes up on itself is a contradiction, a mortification of the promise that brought it to life,” said the Pope. “Never forget that the identity of the family is always a promise that extends and expands to all the family, and also to all humanity. … Love, like friendship, owes its strength and beauty to the fact that it generates a bond without curbing freedom. Love is free, the promise of the family is free, and this is its beauty. Without freedom there is no friendship, without freedom there is no love, without freedom there is no marriage. So, freedom and fidelity are not opposed to each other; on the contrary, they support each other, in terms of both interpersonal and social relationships.

In a very beautiful and moving passage, Francis said: “Being faithful to promises is a true work of art by humanity. No relationship of love – no friendship, no form of caring for another person, no joy of the common good – reaches the height of our desire and our hope, if it does not arrive at the point of inhabiting this miracle of the soul. And I use the word ‘miracle’, because the strength and persuasiveness of fidelity, in spite of everything, can only enchant and surprise us.”

“There is no greater ‘school’ to teach us such fidelity than marriage and the family,” continued the Holy Father, because they are, “in God’s plan, a blessing for our world. Saint Paul tells us that the love which grounds the family points to the bond of love between Christ and the Church. In these days of the Synod on the Family, let us pray that the Church will uphold and strengthen the promise of the family, with creativity and with unfailing trust in that faithful love by which the Lord fulfils his every promise.”

DAY 14 SYNOD PRESS BRIEFING

Papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi started today’s briefing on the synod by adding to his earlier denial of what he called “the circulation of entirely unfounded news” that Pope Francis has a benign brain tumor. He had said that the report “regarding the health of the Holy Father by an Italian newspaper is gravely irresponsible and unworthy of attention.”

At the briefing, referring to the original article, he stated that no Japanese doctor specializing in brain tumors ever came to the Vatican to see the Pope last January, nor had a helicopter ever brought a person to the Vatican. Father Lombardi also mentioned that, next to the article about the papal health, was an interview by the same writer with a woman doctor about tumors. She personally called Fr. Lombardi from New York to say she had seen the report of a papal tumor, knew absolutely nothing, only that a journalist had called her and asked, in a very generic way, about tumors.

Cardinals Daniel Sturla Berhouet of Montevideo, Uruguay and Reinhard Marx of Munich, Germany and Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Ireland addressed the media. Each began with an opening statement.

Cardinal Marx, who is also one of C-9 Council of Cardinals that advises the Holy Father, began to speak in his native German and then switched to English, a language understood by the greater majority of the journalists present.

He said he thinks “the synod is nearing the end but that it will not be the end because there will be a ‘relatio’ (report) and propositions. In our German-speaking group we had propositions and reflections about marriage and the family. The Holy Father will make something of the texts (of the language groups) so the synod is not at an end.”

Cardinal Marx said from the (2014) consistory to the 2014 synod to this synod, he sees that, “most of the people agree with the central part of the document (the Instrumentum laboris or working document), that is, one man, one women, together, forever. That is the great majority of the people I know in the church and also in society in general, and they will agree with the message of the Church. The Church says be faithful to your dreams – and people want to hear this – but they ask: what will you say to us when we fail?  That is the center of the discussions. Our answer: we stay with you even when you fail. This is a challenge in pastoral work.”

“In our relatio, continued the archbishop of Munich, “we stressed the point because marriage and the family is such a center for the world, for society. The family is the center and thanks to the Catholic Church for making this possible. Our discussions are for the world – this is our message to the world.” Cardinal Marx noted, “we have to do a lot to strengthen and support families, to accompany them and help them, to help families to realize their dream when they say ‘Yes’ to each other. One man, one woman, forever, and children. Thus, this most intimate private action is also most important for the public interest.”

Another point was “the discussion on gender and we tried to make a difference.” There is this new social construction of gender, and we are against these ‘new’ genders. That people can ‘choose’ gender is not acceptable to the Church.”

On the issue of the divorced and civilly remarried who wish communion, the German said, “everyone is looking at this issue. We are looking at what I just said about these people: what will you say to us when we fail?”

He pointed out that “every proposition, every text of German language group is unanimous – no vote against it. We feel there must be a way for us to be with these people who are aiming for full reconciliation with the church.”

“I hope this synod will not be a synod of closed doors but of open doors for people – open to young people who want to marry. We truly hope your dream will come true.”

(FYI: In actual practice, a number of bishops in Germany and Switzerland are already giving communion to divorced and remarried, an issue of great concern and consternation for many Church fathers and Catholics elsewhere.)

Cardinal Sturla from Uruguay said he has only been a bishop for three and a half years and cardinal for half that time and this is his first synod. He said he is learning a lot from his brothers, learning how to listen, to see the universal church. He sees the universality of the Church in the Italian language group of which he is part as there are Italian-speaking prelates and guests from the Eastern Churches and from around the world. He is impressed with the intensity of work, the conscientious care with which Synod Fathers prepared their text.

The Salesian cardinal said there was great attention in language groups, as well as diversity of opinions, freedom to talk, fraternity and unity. “We touched on all the topics Card Marx mentioned,” and spoke of the ideology of gender, He stressed the strong secularization process in Latin America where, in many instances, even same sex unions are approved. He said his group was struck by the unity given by the figure of the Pope. He said “we work but the last word will be the Pope’s.” He also underscored how, “for us of Spanish language, the word ‘accompany’ is very important, fundamental, in fact.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Ireland said this was his first synod and it has been a “marvelous, special experience.”

“Last night in our small language group of which I am moderator,” he began, “I thought: what will come out of this synod? Were we all to go home last night, before any document was issued, then I feel the synod has been worthwhile. The synod is about finding synergy, as Pope Francis said Saturday (in his talk about the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops). The convergence was around Pope Francis.”

Abp. Martin noted that, “this synod is entitled ‘vocation and mission of the family.’ Vocation often suggests priesthood and consecrated life. But they are in decline. What do we do? We pray for vocations and we support those who believe they have a vocation. So why not do the same for the family, think in the same way? The tsunami of secularism has led to this decline in the sense of vocation, so how do we support that?

The archbishop of Armagh suggested three answers. 1. We must surely pray for the family, for marriage; 2. We need to have a clear, positive definition of marriage, of vocation to marriage and family, and 3. We need to support and nourish those in the vocation of marriage. In coming weeks, months and years, we have to ask: What are we doing to support the vocation and mission of the family?

HERE’S HOW THE SYNOD WORKS….

On The Road Together – The soil of real experience

“We’ve come far but there’s still a long way to go in a short time” – by Abp. Mark Coleridge, Brisbane, Australia

Yesterday (Tuesday) we finished work in the small groups. Our group was a very mixed bag, as were all the groups more or less. But English being spoken so widely we had a real jumble of nationalities (18), and voices spoke from vastly different backgrounds, at times it seemed from different planets. It wasn’t always easy to weave a tapestry from this but – thanks in large part to the tact and patience, the tactics and hard work of the Moderator, Archbishop Eamon Martin – we came close enough to it.

It was a challenge to put the final group report together, because Part III on which we were reporting contains most of the hot-button issues, on which there wasn’t always agreement in the group. The final report didn’t gloss over this totally; nor did it give much sense of the disagreement among us. At times our focus, I thought, was more doctrinal than pastoral and that, as a result, we tended to talk in some kind of noosphere which bore little relation to the reality of people’s lives – or at least the lives of the people I serve back home. The word “pastoral” means in the first place that we’re in touch with the reality of people’s lives, not caught in some doctrinal or ideological bubble where things may be beautiful in their own neat way but where you don’t deal with the mess of reality. The group was at its best perhaps when we were sharing our experiences of marriage and the family in our home situations. That’s when you felt we were touching down in the soil of real experience.

At times we wandered away from the focus of the family, talking about issues in global terms rather than within the context of the family. As a result, there was sometimes a feeling that we had to say everything about everything, which is not what a Synod is about – especially when we’re looking at the family which is not a single theme but a whole host of themes. You have to be very focused if it’s not to become unmanageable; and our focus had to be essentially pastoral and strictly within the context of the family.

Read the rest of Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s very informative blog here (you really have to wonder where he finds he time to write this, given what he said about his schedule!): http://brisbanecatholic.org.au/articles/soil-real-experience/

 

DAY 13: SYNOD PRESS BRIEFING – A ROMANIAN DOCTOR BEGS SYNOD FATHERS: STAY TRUE TO THE FAITH

The second article in my column today is a talk, presented here in its entirety, that was delivered Friday in the synod hall by an auditor, a Romanian doctor. Of all the talks given, this one has risen quickly to the top of the pile. Read her plea asking the Synod Fathers to stay true to the faith, to keep the Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic, to stay true to the teachings of the founder, Jesus. And, by the way, sin is at the root of evils. We need evangelization, repentance, conversion.  Is the Church being formed by society – or should the Church be forming society? The very last sentence in her talk gives one pause.

DAY 13: SYNOD PRESS BRIEFING

Tuesday,  Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa cautioned against using “politically correct language” at the daily press briefing for the Synod on the Family on Tuesday. He was a guest together with Cardinals Lluis Martinez Sistach of Spain and Alberto Suarez Inda of Mexico.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, explained that the interventions in the plenary sessions of all the Synod auditors were now available. Tomorrow the press will be briefed on the reports that come from the working groups – or “circoli minores” – of the Synod. The bishops will meet in plenary for the report back session on Tuesday evening.

Each of the three gave an introductory address before taking questions from the press. Following is a report by Vatican Radio’s Fr. Russell Pollitt SJ.

Cardinal Sistach said that he has experienced a real sense of synodality in the past two weeks. He said that his small group was very much focused on looking at marriage preparation. They bishops in his group also spent time examine the process of annulment in the light of the Motu Proprio, issued by Pope Francis earlier this year, so that they could make sure annulments are done expediently.

His Eminence Inda said he believed that the Synod was important and would have an impact on the whole world. He said that the family was the “cell of life” in the Church. The cardinal said that it was the role of bishops to be merciful judges in their dioceses. The bishops have to “listen like mothers” and practice discernment in specific situations. He also thanked the bishops of the United States of America for their welcome to South American migrants. Many migrants found hospitality in parishes in the USA. He said that the US bishops provide services to assist migrants.

Carinal Inda criticized American foreign policy which divided many families. He said that the bishops of Mexico and the USA need to work together to support marriages that have been divided because of migration. Many people migrate, not because they choose to, but because they have to, in order to survive. This leads to difficulties – like infidelity in marriage when the spouses do not see each other for extended periods.

South African Carinal Napier spoke specifically about what the African bishops thought. The African bishops have a great sense of optimism, first because it is God that is leading them and second because of the way that Pope Francis is leading the Church. He thanked lay people who were praying for the delegates of the Synod. Napier also affirmed people living in good marriages because “they help us to see where we need to go as a Synod.”

He said that the Synod was being guided by the title “The Mission and Vocation of the Family in the Church and in the World” and that he thought that some issues needed to be dealt with in another forum, especially issues related to discipline, that had been brought up in the Synod. Napier stressed that in Africa there was a different view of marriage.  “Marriage is not between two individuals but two families.” He went on to explain that, unlike the West, cohabitation is often part of the actual preparation process for marriage which is sanctioned by the families. He also spoke about how the Church must support child-headed households in Africa. A number of young girls are left with the responsibility of heading households because of the HIV pandemic.

Cardinal Inda explained that drugs and guns were a huge problem and caused much harm to many families in Mexico. He said that for the bishops doctrine is of utmost importance, “but doctrine is not just theories, it must be rooted in reality.”

Spanish Cardinal Sistach said that Christians get married in order to be joy-filled. He said that the work of the Synod is to aid people to be truly happy in their marriages.

Speaking on the Synod process, Cardinal Napier said that the African bishops were happy. He said that there had been some problems – hence the private letter written to the Pope last week by some cardinals – but that these were resolved when the Holy Father “registered our concerns.”

When asked about the annulment process all three prelates said that the Motu Proprio gave them the tools they needed assist people. The major difference was that they do not need to go to a second court of appeal which was often the cause of delays. They said, however, that the shortened process challenged bishops to ensure they had proper personnel in place and that the process was followed faithfully. If a case is complicated it must then go through the longer process so that the Church can ensure things are done correctly. Cardinal Sistach humorously said that a way of dealing with the Motu Proprio would be the creation of a new religious order!

At the end of the briefing Cardinal Napier was asked about the change or use of “new language” by the Church. This has been a consistent topic at the Synod – that the Church finds new ways of talking that is more sensitive and inclusive. Napier said that it must be remembered that this was a pastoral synod, looking at how the Church can be servant and minister. He cautioned against the use of “politically correct” language and said that the Church has to be prophetic too.

A ROMANIAN DOCTOR BEGS SYNOD FATHERS: STAY TRUE TO THE FAITH

The following intervention was made by Dr. Anca-Maria Cernea, President of the Association of Catholic Doctors of Bucharest (Romania), at the Ordinary Synod on the Family on Friday.

Your Holiness, Synod Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, I represent the Association of Catholic Doctors from Bucharest.

I am from the Romanian Greek Catholic Church.

DR ANCA

My father was a Christian political leader, who was imprisoned by the communists for 17 years. My parents were engaged to marry, but their wedding took place 17 years later.

My mother waited all those years for my father, although she didnit even know if he was still alive. They have been heroically faithful to God and to their engagement.

Their example shows that God’s grace can overcome terrible social circumstances and material poverty.

We, as Catholic doctors, defending life and family, can see this is, first of all, a spiritual battle.

Material poverty and consumerism are not the primary cause of the family crisis.

The primary cause of the sexual and cultural revolution is ideological.

Our Lady of Fatima has said that Russia’s errors would spread all over the world.

It was first done under a violent form, classical Marxism, by killing tens of millions.

Now it’s being done mostly by cultural Marxism. There is continuity from Lenin’s sex revolution, through Gramsci and the Frankfurt school, to the current-day gay-rights and gender ideology.

Classical Marxism pretended to redesign society, through violent take-over of property.

Now the revolution goes deeper; it pretends to redefine family, sex identity and human nature.

This ideology calls itself progressive. But it is nothing else than the ancient serpent’s offer, for man to take control, to replace God, to arrange salvation here, in this world.

It’s an error of religious nature, it’s Gnosticism.

It’s the task of the shepherds to recognize it, and warn the flock against this danger.

“Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

The Church’s mission is to save souls. Evil, in this world, comes from sin. Not from income disparity or “climate change.”

The solution is: Evangelization. Conversion.

Not an ever-increasing government control. Not a world government. These are nowadays the main agents imposing cultural Marxism to our nations, under the form of population control, reproductive health, gay rights, gender education, and so on.

What the world needs nowadays is not limitation of freedom, but real freedom, liberation from sin. Salvation.

Our Church was suppressed by the soviet occupation. But none of our 12 bishops betrayed their communion with the Holy Father. Our Church survived thanks to our bishops’ determination and example in resisting prisons and terror.

Our bishops asked the community not to follow the world. Not to cooperate with the communists.

Now we need Rome to tell the world: “Repent of your sins and turn to God for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Not only us, the Catholic laity, but also many Christian Orthodox are anxiously praying for this Synod. Because, as they say, if the Catholic Church gives in to the spirit of this world, it is going to be very difficult for all the other Christians to resist it.

 

BRIEFING DAY 12: SYNOD OF BISHOPS – BEHIND THE SCENES WITH A SYNOD FATHER

When one is not gifted with the grace of bi-location, covering a synod can be a real challenge.

You see, a journalist:

  1.       Wants to be outside the synod hall in the fenced-in area for the media where you try to shout greetings to prelates you know or want to know or at least take a few important photos: You can do this at least once a day but will probably meet more people if you stand there at least twice daily, such when the synod fathers arrive at the morning and afternoon sessions and then leave both sessions;
  2.      Wants to attend the daily briefings, normally scheduled for 1 pm in the Holy See Press Office: they can last as little as an hour or well over 90 minutes. In any case, if you have lunch, it will be a late lunch. Now, there is an alternative: stay at home or in your office and watch online. But most likely you have stayed at home because you are trying to write an article from a previous interview or you are trying to prepare a new interview – but how do you listen attentively to the press briefing (where some interesting things can be learned) AND write a thoughtful, comprehensive piece, blog, daily column, script for radio or TV, etc.?
  3.       If you do attend the press briefing, you then have to write your column and that might take considerable time to do well (reading your notes, translating the shorthand, etc.). You will probably do this as you eat a snack from the press office vending machine. However, if you eat a really decent lunch, the writing will be put off.
  4.      But you can’t put off the writing because you have a 4:30 appointment to interview a prelate. Do you prepare your press briefing column or make sure the interview is well prepared? Is there time to do both? Something might give along the way.
  5.       If everything actually falls into place (and by the way, I did not include the time it takes to download photos, selecting a few for your column, and/or listening to your recording of the press conference or an interview) by late evening you will have accomplished most of the day’s objectives and then, feeling you deserve a really good break, you seek a really good meal, preferably breaking bread with friends and colleagues who have shared the same daily schedule.
  6.      Things should and probably will work out with some level of determination and organization but it is always the little extras that can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back: the “extras” like meeting deadlines for two weekly television shows and three radio programs or having to re-arrange schedules to accommodate an interviewee who has to change his/her schedule, or an unexpected assignment from your editor. My “extra” today was an almost daylong repair job on the centralized satellite we have in our Vatican-owned apartment building. I’ve been without a great number of channels, including EWTN, for several months. A technician came at 10:30 am and left a little after 5:30 pm but he did solve the problem. I had to be available part of the time as the technician needed to check damage and/or repairs against my TV. In any case, I can now watch EWTN’s nightly show on the synod at 7 pm, instead of streaming on my iPad (but thank the Lord for little favors!)
  7.      And the synod days will pass – not as rapidly as one might like – but we are now, after all, in the third and final week of this marathon synod on the family that ends – at least here in Rome – on Sunday, October 25. Deo gratias for endings!

BRIEFING DAY 12: SYNOD OF BISHOPS

Archbishops Enrico Solmi of Italy, Mark Coleridge of Australia and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Beatitude Fouad Twal, answered questions from the media at the daily press briefing on the Synod of the Family. Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, explained that the delegates were meeting in small groups on Monday and Tuesday so there will be no report until Wednesday of the discussions that were underway. The three prelates answered a number of questions which mainly focussed on the admission of the divorced and civilly remarried to Communion.

Bishops arrive at the synod hall for meetings (photo: news.va):

bishops arrive for synod

Following is a report by Vatican Radio’s Fr. Russell Politt, SJ

“Discernment is always messy and uncertain,” said Archbishop Coleridge. He went on to say that despite the mess and the challenges the Synod faces, he is confident that deep down something is moving. Coleridge said that he thought Pope Francis’ address at Saturday’s celebration marking 50 years of the institution of the Synod of Bishops was a key moment and that he hoped what the Pope said would be taken forward.

Archbishop Solmi said that climate at the Synod was one of listening and expressing things openly which included different opinions and nuances. He said that a fundamental aspect of the Synod was to try and look at the family through the eyes of God. Solmi said that he really thinks the Synod understands a sense of Catholicism – the universal Church meeting and sharing their lived experiences from all over the world.

All three prelates spoke of the importance of being in touch with human experience. Coleridge said that often bishops can indulge in “Church-speak” that is truly beautiful but abstract and doesn’t touch people in their reality. He underlined that this was a pastoral synod. We need theology but we also need to be deeply in touch with human experience, he added.

Beatitude Twal, speaking on the admission of the divorced and civilly married to Communion, said that this is a very serious and complicated discussion. He said that in no way can we generalise, sometimes there may be no sin but “a lack of order” and so we have to look at these issues very closely. Coleridge said that if a second marriage is good, stable and the children were well cared for, then we need to see if there is some pastoral solution that can be used. He added that there are many people who are alienated from the Church and so it’s important that we go to them and reach out.

Solmi said that people may be living in a situation that is not God’s will for them. He said that there may be sin but we need to remember that we are dealing with the reality of peoples lives and that accompanying them means listening and embarking upon a path of discernment.

The prelates were asked how they are dealing with three vexed questions which seem to be central to the narrative around the Synod: the admission of the divorce and civilly remarried to communion, homosexuality and cohabitation. Twal said that he did not believe these were central. He said that these were not the items of the Synod but amongst items being discussed at the Synod. He mentioned other issues like war and poverty. He said that even with much goodwill on the part of the Synod delegates, they are aware of their limits and that they cannot solve all the issues before them. He said that in his part of the world he does not have the same problems as the West.

Coleridge said that there will be no substantial change in Church teaching on these issues. He said that, hopefully, there will be a movement to a new, genuine, pastoral approach to things. He said the approach requires new language, a language that listens. He said that although the Church may understand a certain language – like “love the sinner but not the sin” or “intrinsically disordered” – this no longer communicates with the people of our times. It would be helpful to find others words to express truths that are more positive. He asked if there was another way, for example, that the Church could express “indissolubility” more positively.

The bishops said that they were working hard, and feeling tired, trying to put together a report that could be presented to the Pope. They said that they would give their recommendations to him but that, in the end, the Holy Father will decide on the way forward.

BEHIND THE SCENES WITH A SYNOD FATHER

ON THE ROAD TOGETHER – BETWEEN ABRAHAM AND MOSES

“We’re caught at the moment between Abraham and Moses. All of the bishops have a bit of both in them, but some are more Mosaic than Abrahamic, others more Abrahamic than Mosaic. Let’s hope the two patriarchs can embrace by week’s end.”

October 19, 2015 – Abp. Mark Coleridge, Brisbane, Australia

Yesterday, being Sunday, was free from Synod commitments. But that didn’t mean free from praying and eating – both of which are done in considerable quantities during the Synod, free day or not. I had two invitations for Mass – one to the Domus Australia where Cardinal Pell was celebrating the fourth anniversary of the Aussie house in Rome, the other the Canonisation Mass in St Peter’s Square. I decided the Square was closer, so over I went with Bishop Hurley to join the mob of of bishops who gathered around the Pope as he declared four blesseds – among them the parents of Therese of Lisieux – to be saints.

These papal occasions have about them a grand formality, at least out in the Square. But things are a little less formal, in fact a bit messy, in the Basilica where the bishops vest. It’s very pleasant to have, as it were, the run of St Peter’s without the vast crowds that throng through it from day to day.

We were vesting in the chapel of St Gregory Nazianzen who, by the way, hated episcopal synods and councils and thought that no good ever came of them. He retired from his see early to produce some of the most memorable theology ever written. Nearby was the chapel of Pope St John XXIII and he, of course, loved synods and councils. All the bishops stopped before his tomb to seek his intercession as the start of the final week of this Synod. I certainly did, in part because I think this Synod is more directly linked to Vatican II than any other Synod through the last 50 years.

Continue with this fascinating insider’s look here: http://brisbanecatholic.org.au/articles/on-the-road-together-between-abraham-moses/

 

“VATICAN INSIDER” HOSTS A SYNOD COUPLE FROM THE U.S. – MARRIAGE, A JOURNEY OF LOVE, FIDELITY AND SERVICE TO THE LORD – DAY 11 PRESS BRIEFING ON THE SYNOD – CARDINAL TAGLE, CARITAS AND A RELIEF MISSION

TODAY IN HISTORY: Thirty-seven years ago today, Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected to the See of Peter and took the name John Paul II.  His was the third longest papacy in history, after St. Peter and Pope Pius IX.

TOMORROW: Pope Francis, the Synod Fathers and participants and invited guests will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Synod of Bishops by Blessed Paul VI from 9 am to 12:30 pm in the Paul VI Hall.

SUNDAY: We will witness the canonization of the parents of St. Thèrése of Lisieux, Blesseds Louis e Zélie Martin, and hear their amazing, unique story. How fitting to canonize a couple during the synod on the family!

There is a fascinating report by Vatican Radio staff on the press briefing today in the Holy See Press Office and I’m sure you will be greatly interested in what the two guests at the briefing had to say. I was especially struck by this remark: “Patriarch Stephanos said that sometimes he was disappointed on how the media was reporting on the Synod. He said there was the tendency to look for scandal and not report the positive things that were being said. He said that divergent views were not scandalous but showed that the bishops really took their pastoral responsibility seriously and wanted to respond as best they could to God’s people.”

You may remember the other day I told the story of the couple from Brazil who were guests at the briefing, and were asked by a priest covering the synod: What has most surprised you about the synod and your participation? And the priest was surely the one who was surprised when the husband replied: What surprised us has been the media coverage as it does not reflect what was happening inside the synod hall.

The husband added another very interesting element: He said it seemed to many inside the synod that what the media was trying to do was “influence” the gathering by “suggesting,” via their articles, what the synod agenda should really be!

I have read articles and heard from synod participants that the media reports often fail to mirror the synod reality. And yet others say it is often only the headline that is misleading or titillating but the report itself is valid. And, need it be said, there are obviously many excellent pieces out there.

In all the years I worked at the Vatican Information Service and covered synods, the hardest, most time-consuming part of our work was to read ALL of the speeches by the Synod Fathers and then write a solid summary of as many talks as humanly and physically possible for our readers.

However, looking back, that was actually the best part of our work, at least compared to the new synod methodology where these talks are not made public. The speeches of the Synod Fathers were out there for everyone to see. You did not have to guess what each individual said. Writers did not have to take a stab at what was happening, what was being said in the synod hall. And there were translations – sometimes very rushed and quite faulty but you had the main focus of a synod speech.

“VATICAN INSIDER” HOSTS A SYNOD COUPLE FROM THE U.S.

My guests this week on “Vatican Insider” are Cathy and Tony Witczak, a couple from Philadephia who have been married for 48 years, are leaders in the Worldwide Marriage Encouter movment 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.

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They addressed the synod in the afternoon session yesterday and it was after that that we spoke. The conversation was so heartfelt and warm, and Cathy and Tony’s love for each other was palpable – as you will sense in a very delicate moment of our talk.

(Their intervention Thursday afternoon follows)

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 www.ewtn.com) 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: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

MARRIAGE, A JOURNEY OF LOVE, FIDELITY AND SERVICE TO THE LORD

Following is the intervention yesterday in the synod hall by Cathy and Tony Witczak, a married couple an auditors from the U.S. Knowing that talks were supposed to be 3 minutes, I asked if this meant that they, as a couple, had 3 minutes each, or just half that total. Tony said it was to be half that. Let’s see….

Your Holiness, members of the clergy, esteemed guests, We are Tony and Cathy Witczak, married 48 years, parents of 4 children and grandparents of 16. We are one of the 6,500 couples currently presenting Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekends in almost 100 countries.

CATHY: From the very beginning of our journey, we knew it was God’s plan for us to be together. We met while serving the Lord, and I was immediately attracted by Tony’s spirituality and self-confidence. I imagined us raising a family and serving God as a team. In the years after our wedding we were blessed with three daughters and a son. Like so many couples, we quickly found ourselves very busy with the demands of caring for and providing for our family. Although we attended Mass faithfully, and we volunteered in our parish, we began to lose that initial joy for service. Our loving relationship was strained as we were pulled in many different directions. The dreams we had became a distant memory.

TONY: In 1979 we were led to the Marriage Encounter Weekend. I didn’t think we needed any renewal, but on that Weekend, I began to see myself and Cathy in a new light. As we learned to dialogue heart to heart, I saw things I had been missing. Together we discovered that God wanted us to be intimately united so we could be a radiant sign of His love in the world. When we renewed our vows, my joy overflowed because I saw God’s love for me in Cathy’s eyes. We recognized the call to holiness, the call to be a sacramental couple and to share our love with everyone around us.

CATHY: We chose to serve our Church through Worldwide Marriage Encounter because of what we saw in the presenting team that weekend: three couples working side by side with the priest. This intimate community helped us see how we are meant to support one another in our common mission of building the family of God. The priest challenges the couple to grow spiritually; the couple offers the priest the opportunity to grow emotionally as part of the family. Together in community, they offer a wonderful model for church that encourages openness to vocations!

TONY: Some parting thoughts: First: the Church must offer quality programs, especially engaged and married couples, or it risks being dismissed as irrelevant in today’s world. Second: We should not continually separate husband and wife for ministry in the parish, but rather let their sacrament shine by allowing them to work as a team.  Third: If a church is meant to be a family of families, then we should encourage our seminarians to be priests in love with their people, not merely priests in charge of a parish. Our faith is based on relationship with God, but it is learned and lived out in relationship with others.

DAY 11 PRESS BRIEFING ON THE SYNOD

(Vatican Radio) Friday 16 Oct. Two fraternal delegates were guests at the daily press briefing for the Synod on the Family on Friday. Bishop Tim Thornton of the Anglican Communion is representing the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Patriarch Stephanos of Estonia is representing the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

Bishop Thornton, speaking on the importance of forming good families today said, “How can we encourage every individual to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? That’s what the focus for me has to be. We try and get every individual to understand what it means to be a disciple then they shape their family life, whatever that is, in what I think would be the right way and the goal.”

Thornton said that he thought one of the big issues the Synod delegates faced was the tension between local and universal. Some issues might be dealt with much better on the local level, there is therefore a tension between how much subsidiarity and how much of a universal framework is needed.

Patriarch Stephanos said that the Synod was a positive experience. He said that extraordinary work had been done and that many problems have been laid out. “The problems you face are not that different to the ones that we have, we are all searching,” he said. In his remarks, he said that there were “no easy answers” and yet the Church must engage with difficult questions.

Responding to a question about the “penitential path” for the divorced and remarried and their admission to the Eucharist in the Orthodox Church, the Patriarch explained that there is only one Orthodox Church but that there are different expressions of the Church. He said that he noticed that the “human dimension of the sacraments” was being better understood at the Synod. “The Fathers are slowly coming to understand what we call ‘the economy of salvation.’ This means that for each there is a place and position in the economy of grace and hence the importance of mercy,” he said.

Cardinal Walter Kasper had proposed that the Church look towards the Eastern Orthodox Church to find a way of dealing with issues around the ban on admission to the Eucharist for the divorced and remarried.

Thornton said that the Anglican Communion still holds to the traditional understanding of marriage. He said that there was no neat line between the doctrinal and the pastoral and both need to be seen in a broader theological context. He also said that it was unfortunate that the Instrumentum Laboris did not contain more of the historical context of marriage because marriage was not always in the domain of the Church; it came much later when married people came to the Church for a blessing.

It was reported at the briefing that the discussions in the assembly were much more emotional in the last two sessions of the Synod. The personal nature of the interventions arose from the fact that many of them were about actual pastoral cases. Some bishops read letters in the assembly that were written to them by people in their pastoral care who were hurting.

A number of topics were presented in the interventions. These include: procreation and contraception (the theology of Humane Vitae was spoken about); the changes made by Pope Francis to the annulment process; violence, incest and sexual abuse within families and the “martyrdom of silence”; the care of the elderly and their value in society; the formation of parents because they shape future generations, and how large corporations and economic issues put pressure on parents to work long hours which disrupt family life.

The Synod delegates had also heard in interventions that there were possibly three ways forward: to do nothing, to move towards the ‘penitential way’ outlined by Cardinal Walter Kasper or, stand firm and reaffirm the Church’s current position.

The Patriarch said that sometimes he was disappointed on how the media was reporting on the Synod. He said there was the tendency to look for scandal and not report the positive things that were being said. He said that divergent views were not scandalous but showed that the bishops really took their pastoral responsibility seriously and wanted to respond as best they could to God’s people.

Bishop Thornton added that he would have liked to see some more of the important issues – like migration and poverty – being spoken about. He said that questions around divorce and remarriage seemed to be the focus.

Fr. Lombardi said that he had heard the word “accompaniment” many times at the Synod, “The Church needs to accompany individuals, couples and families.” He said that it was important, delegates stated, that families must be formed to accompany one another because, in doing so, they become “missionaries” for other families. He added that delegates had spoken of the importance of sexual intimacy related to the Eucharist. In the Eucharist Jesus says “This is my body given for you,” this is what married couples do for each other.

There will be no further press briefing on the Synod until Monday afternoon. The delegates returned to work in their small groups on Friday afternoon and will continue to work in groups until Tuesday.

CARDINAL TAGLE, CARITAS AND A RELIEF MISSION

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila will see how Caritas is helping migrants on a visit to Idomeni close to the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on October 19, according to a press release from Caritas headquarters in Rome. Cardinal Tagle is the president of Caritas Internationalis, which is coordinating relief efforts for the confederation of Catholic aid agencies.

Caritas Greece (known nationally as Caritas Hellas) volunteers in Idomeni provide food and water and sanitation to women and children on the crossing point. Over 450,000 people have gone through Greece this year heading for a new life in the European Union.

Idomeni is a small village unable to host the large number of people travelling through. Many must staying outside, without shelter. There is little chance of getting a meal, a wash or access to a toilet.

Caritas is providing warm clothes, food, medical care, bedding and water and sanitation and other services, working in Greece, the FYR of Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary and elsewhere in Europe.

More than 70 percent of asylum seekers and migrants have come to Europe in 2015 from countries experiencing severe emergencies like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Conflict, religious and ethnic persecution and poverty are driving people out of their homes.

Those crossing Greece include families with women and children. They’ve faced dangerous and difficult journeys over sea and land.

Caritas says governments should work together to ensure safe and lawful ways to migrate. The current situation is only benefiting criminals and traffickers. Many of the European countries they’re travelling through don’t have the capacity to support such a huge numbers of people, especially in terms of shelter. Caritas is concerned that as the weather worsens, their situation could deteriorate.

Caritas is urging that the refugees be welcomed, while at the same time solutions are pursued to promote peace and development in their countries of origin. in the Middle East.

DAY 6: PRESS BRIEFING ON THE SYNOD – VATICAN PAPER: U.S. BISHOPS ON ASSISTED SUICIDE IN CALIFORNIA

POPE FRANCIS TWEETED TODAY: Work is important, but so too is rest. Shouldn’t we learn to respect times of rest, especially Sundays?

….and that is just what I will do tomorrow, respect the Lord’s Day and bring you up to date on the synod on Monday

 DAY 6: PRESS BRIEFING ON THE SYNOD

I was unable to cover today’s press briefing but bring you Vatican Radio’s report on Fr. Lombardi’s briefing along with His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, president of the Indian Bishops Conference and head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. (photo news.va)

HIS BEATITUDE THOTTUNKAL

A number of issues were spoken about and addressed in interventions from Synod Fathers at the Synod on the Family on Friday evening and Saturday morning. The Fathers continued with their interventions on part two of Instrumentum Laboris. Once they had completed this section they began to listen to interventions on part three, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, told the media

Fr. Lombardi told journalists that there were 75 interventions in the plenary session. There were a good number of interventions from Fathers representing Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. He noted that there were few interventions from North America.

A number of themes emerged from the interventions including the spirituality of family life, the missionary responsibility of families to look after and foster good marriages, the role of various family movements in the church and ways that the church can remain close and show tenderness to families that are struggling.

There were also a number of interventions on the relationship and balance between justice and mercy. The media were told that there are divergent views on this issue amongst the Fathers. One of the Fathers said that mercy does not mean an abandonment of the church’s teaching.

His Eminence Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, president of the Indian Bishops Conference and head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, was a guest at the press briefing. He told the media that mercy means conversion which is reciprocal.  “The Gospel demands this as a condition. The Kingdom of God is at hand, be converted,” he said.

Concern was also expressed for military families. Many military personnel are far from home and often separated from their families for extended periods. These men and women, as well as their families, are in need of special pastoral care.

The Fathers acknowledged that due to diverse situations and contexts there is no such thing as a “typical family.” Many of them spoke about indissolubility being one of the essential elements of Christian marriage.

A number of Fathers also spoke earnestly about marriage preparation. Many considered pre-marriage formation to be seriously lacking. One Father suggested that the bishops themselves needed to penitentially admit that they had failed to provide formation for the lay faithful in this regard. There was a suggestion in another intervention that couples, like those in formation for the priesthood or religious life, also need a “noviciate” time before the sacrament of marriage is entered into. It was thought that the crisis in religious and priestly vocations is directly linked to the crisis in family life.

Fr. Lombardi was asked questions about the process of the Synod after it was reported that a suggestion had been made that, in future, synods are longer processes that begin with continental meetings first. This means that issues would be more focussed and refined when they were brought to the universal synod. His Beatitude Cardinal Thottunkal responded by saying that things have to start in local contexts so that it can be brought to synods like this one. He said that he saw no contradiction in this kind of methodology and thought that the fruits of such a process could be much better for the whole church.

Fr. Lombardi explained that the Instrumentum Laboris could be changed if, in the small groups, an absolute majority proposed changes. This proposal would then go to the Synod Committee. He reminded the media that interventions in the plenary were not proposals to the Synod; they are part of the “conversation.”

The effect of migration has been a reccurring theme in this Synod for the whole of the first week. Cardinal Thottunkal said that he agreed with Pope Francis’ request that people welcome migrants and are generous to them. He added, however, that he also has his own personal view on the matter. He believes that the world community and leaders should make it possible for people to be accommodated and sustained in their own countries. “We must work to keep these people in their own countries,” he said.

The Synod Fathers will return to work on Monday morning when they will, again, break into small groups to discuss part two of Instrumentum Laboris.

VATICAN PAPER: U.S. BISHOPS ON ASSISTED SUICIE IN CALIFORNIA

L’Osservatore Romano, in its October 9 online edition, offered the following article entitled, “U.S. Bishops on Assisted suicide in California – The Sick are being Discarded”:

California’s legalization of assisted suicide, which took place a few days ago when Jerry Brown, the Governor of California, signed the law, has been defined by U.S. Bishops as “a great tragedy for human life.” In a letter, adding to the firm stance of local bishops, Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and chairman of the committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed his grief over this “deeply flawed action.”

The law, which will be brought into effect in the coming months, will allow terminally ill adults who are in full possession of their mental faculties to choose voluntary death through lethal drugs. The law requires the prior approval of two doctors and for many witnesses to be present – of which only one can be a relative – at the time the lethal substance is administered. According to O’Malley, “Governor Brown said he signed this law because it should not be a crime for a dying person in pain to end his life.” However, the Cardinal stressed, “suicide itself is a tragedy, not a crime. The crime is for people in authority such as physicians to facilitate the deliberate deaths of other, more vulnerable people. That crime will now be permitted in California.”

Cardinal O’Malley also said this legislation will create “confusion”, because “seriously ill patients suffering from depression and suicidal feelings will receive lethal drugs, instead of genuine care to help alleviate that suffering.”

The result, he said, is that “where such ‘assistance’ is legal, most people taking the lethal drugs do so not because of pain but because they feel they are helpless and a ‘burden’ on others. The state of California in effect is now confirming this judgment. A government that legalizes assisted suicide sends the terrible message Pope Francis has so eloquently warned us against, that there is such a thing as disposable people.”

VATICAN INSIDER TRAVELS ON THE PAPAL PLANE! – FRANCIS ASKS PRAYERS FOR PEACE, RECONCILIATION IN MIDDLE EAST, AFRICA – DAY 5: BRIEFING ON THE SYNOD

VATICAN INSIDER TRAVELS ON THE PAPAL PLANE!

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

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 www.ewtn.com) 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: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

FRANCIS ASKS PRAYERS FOR PEACE, RECONCILIATION IN MIDDLE EAST, AFRICA

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:

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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.

DAY 5; BRIEFING ON THE SYNOD

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.”