2018 SYNOD THEME: YOUNG PEOPLE, FAITH AND VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT – U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: “POPE FRANCIS IS A MAN OF PEACE, OF VISION”

What a week this has been so far! The three-day weekend papal trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan, Pope Francis’ unannounced visit Tuesday to the towns in central Italy struck by the earthquake last August 24, and three big moments on Wednesday: The first took place at 9 a.m., before the general audience, when Pope Francis received representatives of the Vodafone Foundation. The Vodafone CEO presented the Pope with an initiative called “Instant Schools for Africa,” which seeks to offer online access to important educational resources for a great number of African youth, some of whom are living in refugee camps.

The general audience followed that meeting, with the papal catechesis centered on the Holy Father’s apostolic trip to the Caucasus region. Wednesday afternoon, Francis addressed the First Global Sports and Faith Conference and, that evening, celebrated vespers in the Rome church of St. Gregory al Celio with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to mark the 50th anniversary of Anglican-Catholic relations. The Holy Father recalled the historic meeting 50 years ago between Blessed Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey, a meeting that led to a gradual rapprochement based on theological dialogue. During the liturgy the two leaders signed a common declaration and sent out on mission together 19 pairs of Anglican and Catholic bishops.

The big news today was the Vatican’s announcement of the theme of the October 2018 Synod of Bishops – see that story below. Also, please find a Vatican Radio interview with outgoing U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon who is in Rome for the Sports and Faith Conference. That meeting, now in its second day, was organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture and supported by the U.N. and the International Olympic Committee.

Pope Francis also met with Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Msgr. Brian Bransfield, secretary general, and Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill, adjunct secretary general.

2018 SYNOD THEME: YOUNG PEOPLE, FAITH AND VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT

The Vatican press office announced today that, “Pope Francis, after consulting, as is customary, with Bishops Conferences, the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris and the Union of Superior Generals, in addition to having listened to the suggestions of the Synod Fathers from the last Synod and the opinion of the XIV Ordinary Council, has decided that the XV General Assembly of the Ordinary Synod of Bishops will take place in October 2018 on the them, ‘Young people, faith and vocational discernment’.”

The press office statement described the theme “as an expression of the Church’s pastoral concern for the young, in continuity with what emerged from the recent Synods on the family and the content of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. It intends to accompany young people along their existential journey towards maturity so that, through a process of discernment, they can discover their life plan and achieve it joyfully, opening themselves up to an encounter with God and humanity and actively taking part in the building of the Church and society.”

U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: “POPE FRANCIS IS A MAN OF PEACE, OF VISION”

Pope Francis met with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday before the start of the First Global Conference on Sport and Faith on the theme “Sport at the Service of Humanity.” The conference was organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the United Nations, and the International Olympic Committee.

After his meeting with Pope Francis, the Secretary General spoke to Vatican Radio’s Alessandro Gisotti.

BAN KI-MOON: I’m grateful to His Holiness Pope Francis, the Vatican, and also the International Olympic Committee for organizing this very meaningful event, where people can be inspired to promote peace and development through sports. Sports is a universal language. It transcends all the national barriers. It transcends all ethnicities and nationalities and whatever differences one may have. It can have instant power of mobilizing people’s energy, and also commitment for development.

“Togetherness, oneness, can easily be realized through sports. In that regard, the United Nations is very much committed. The UN General Assembly has designated April 6, every year, as the International Day of Sports for Development and Peace, and I have appointed a special envoy to promote peace and development through sport. The United Nations and the IOC have been building a very strong partnership; now the Vatican – the Holy See – is joining. The Vatican, IOC, and the United Nations can have a very strong driving force to promote peace and development through sports.”

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Question: How important has the role of Pope Francis been in promoting peace and reconciliation, in your opinion?

BAN KI-MOON: His Holiness Pope Francis is a man of peace; a man of vision. He is a man of more voice. It has been a great privilege and honor for me to work with him. For example, when world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it was the Pope’s urging and appeal to world leaders: He urged world leaders to have a stronger and visionary commitment for the world – people and planet – so that they can live in peace and prosperity through partnership. And also, it was His Holiness who, through his encyclical on climate change, Common Home [Laudato si’] – he termed it: Our planet earth is our common home. We are all seven billion people, and all creatures should live together, and that has given much inspiration. Strong voice: so that the world leaders adopted climate change agreement in Paris last year. I expressed my deepest admiration and gratitude to His Holiness during my audience with him.

Question: Finally, sport is an eloquent example today of this possibility and opportunity of the Holy See and the United Nations to play a role together. Do you think even in the construction of a more human society – peace, reconciliation, human dignity –  that the Holy See and the United Nations, the Church and the United Nations, can work together?

BAN: The Holy See, the Vatican, and Christianity and other religions, they share common goals, visions, and values as the Charter of the United Nations: Peace, respect for humanity, and human rights. And also through sports we can promote sustainable development. In that regard, it is very important that the United Nations has been working very closely with the Holy See, and also a strong partnership with the IOC. The idea of having this Faith and Sports for Peace and Development all came from His Holiness, and also the United Nations and IOC. That is why this is unprecedented that the Secretary General of the United Nations, the IOC, and Holy See work together for common good.

VATICAN INSIDER HOSTS CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN – “THE JOY OF LOVE”: DOCTRINAL UNITY, PERFECTING PASTORAL CARE – AMORIS LAETITIA: NO DOCTRINAL CHANGES, BUT BETTER PASTORAL CARE

VATICAN INSIDER HOSTS CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN

I dedicate the entire news segment of Vatican Insider this weekend to the just-released Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia but there was plenty of time for my special guest on the interview segment, Cardinal Dolan, and this may be one of the funniest you have ever heard on Vatican Insider!

CARDINAL DOLAN

I had spent some time this week with Cardinal Dolan and the 120 members of his archdiocedan pilgrimage group. We have shared a number of meals, I’ve signed a lot of books, and I had asked the cardinal for an interview, knowing very well how full his schedule was but I’m always optimistic.

Last night was the annual elegant, gala fund-raising Rector’s Dinner at the North American College and the cardinal asked that I arrive at bit before the start of the 6:30 reception. I got to NAC about 6:10 and eventually found the cardinal with all the other American cardinals as they were taking a group photo in the gardens. We ended up sitting in two chairs overlooking the garden and just outside NAC’s celebrated Red Room where other dignitaries and guests were enjoying a cocktail. Seating or standing close by were other cardinals.

I started to record our coversation and was shortly in to the conversation when a friend of Cardinal Dolan’s came up, there was a brief conversation – and so the program went! People talking and laughing, the cardinal and I having an excellent time but none of this in the acoustic purity of a studio – so thanks for being understanding about the sounds.

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=

“THE JOY OF LOVE”: DOCTRINAL UNITY, PERFECTING PASTORAL CARE

If I had to give today’s press conference on the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia a title, it would be doctrinal unity – pastoral plurality. No teachings of the Church on marriage and the family were upended, in fact, they were reaffirmed.

We learned in reading Amoris laetitia that this is a very beautiful document written by a man who well understands the beauty of love and marriage and family life but also a man who well undestands the wide varierty of difficulties into which a couple, a family, can fall, and he looks at all those situations, with love and pastoral understanding. In fact, the key words to reading this document – and it should be ready very slowly, at your leisure, to get its full beauty – are respect, discernment, accompaniment.

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One of the common threads in this document was Pope Francis’ insistence that the Church, bishops, priests, work much harder to help those in difficulty. Saying, “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is troubling,” he added: “Our most important pastoral task with regard to families is to strengthen their love, helping to heal wounds and working to precent the spread of this drama of our times.”

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, head of the Synod of Bishops, explained at the press conference that the Exhortation Amoris laetitia is made up of 9 chapters, subdivided into 325 paragraphs with 391 notes and the final prayer to the Holy Family. (see CNA summary below)

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He said, “the title Amoris laetitia (AL) is in continuity with that of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (EG): from the joy of the Gospel to the joy of love in the family. The synodal process has presented the beauty of the family by speaking of love. This constitutes the foundation of the family institution, because God is love among Persons, Trinity and not solitude. In this document, the Holy Father deepens the “gospel of marriage and the family” (AL 89) and offers concrete pastoral orientations which, in continuity with the previous EG, take on new dynamism and value.

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Cardinal Baldiseri quoted Pope Francis: “The various interventions of the Synod Fathers, to which I paid close heed, made up, as it were, a multifaceted gem” (AL 4) – writes the Holy Father, evoking the geometric design of the polyhedron already used in EG (cf. 236). In fact, the results of the Synod Fathers’ work brings together the diversity of experiences and points of view of the particular Churches. Disputes between different opinions took place with freedom and openness, which allowed an almost unanimous outcome to be achieved.

He said, “In full harmony with the Jubilee period that the Church is living, a suitable key for reading the document is “the logic of pastoral mercy” (AL, 307-312). The Holy Father clearly affirms the doctrine of marriage and the family, especially in Ch. III, and he proposes it as an indispensable ideal….. On the other hand, the Pope does not overlook the fragility of families and even their failure.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, who has been in Rome for a congress on Divine Mercy, noted: “It must be said that the documents of the Church often do not belong to one of the most accessible literary genres. This text of the Pope’s is readable, and those who are not dissuaded by its length will find joy in its concreteness and realism. Pope Francis speaks about families with a clarity that is not easy to find in the magisterial documents of the Church.

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The cardinal explained, “Pope Francis has succeeded in speaking about all situations without cataloguing them, without categorising, with that outlook of fundamental benevolence that is associated with the heart of God, with the eyes of Jesus that exclude no-one (cf. AL 297), that welcome all and grant the “joy of the Gospel” to all. This is why reading Amoris Laetitia is so comforting. No-one must feel condemned, no-one is scorned. In this climate of welcome, the discourse on the Christian vision of marriage and the family becomes an invitation, an encouragement, to the joy of love in which we can believe and which excludes no-one, truly and sincerely no-one.

For me, said Cardinal Schonborn, whose own parents separated, “Amoris laetitia is, first and foremost, a “linguistic event”, as was Evangelii gaudium . Something has changed in ecclesial discourse. This change of language was already perceptible during the Synod process. Between the two Synods of October 2014 and October 2015, it may clearly be seen how the tone became richer in esteem, as if the different situations in life had simply been accepted, without being immediately judged or condemned. In Amoris Laetitia this tone of language continues.

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Before this there is obviously not only a linguistic choice, but rather a profound respect when faced with every person who is never firstly a “problematic case” in a “category”, but rather a unique person, with his story and his journey with and towards God. In Evangelii gaudium Pope Francis said that we must take off our shoes before the sacred ground of others (EG 36). This fundamental attitude runs throughout the Exhortation. And it is also provides the most profound reason for the other two key words, to discern and to accompany . These words apply not only to the so-called “irregular situation” (Pope Francis underlines this “so-called”) but rather for all people, for every marriage and for every family. Indeed, we are all journeying and we are all in need of “discernment” and “accompaniment”.

The archbishop of Vienna said, “Pope Francis leaves no doubt regarding his intentions or our task: “As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings. We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer. It is true that there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.” (AL 35). Pope Francis is convinced that the Christian vision of marriage and the family also has an unchanged force of attraction. But it demands “a healthy dose of self-criticism”: “We also need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times the way we present our Christian beliefs and treat other people has helped contribute to today’s problematic situation” (AL 36).

Cardinal Schonborn, on one issue that he called a “hot potato” issue – communion for the divorced and remarried – reiterated St. John Paul’s words in his 1981 Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consorzio, Para 84: “…The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based on Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorce persons who have remarried.”

However, the cardinal pointed out that, while there has been no change from that 1981 statement, there has been development, what he called “an organic development of doctrine.” He was quite clear that there is no new canonical disposition. The Pope does not “innovate” but uses pastoral prudence.

Before the press conference, Cardinal Schornborn spoke to Vatican Radio and offered one significant clarification, explaining that, when Pope Francis discusses the possibility of admitting people in irregular marital situations “to the sacraments,” the Holy Father is speaking first and foremost of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “I think it is very clear there are circumstances in which people in irregular situations may really need sacramental absolution, even if their general situation cannot be clarified.”

AMORIS LAETITIA: NO DOCTRINAL CHANGES, BUT BETTER PASTORAL CARE

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2016 / 04:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics who have divorced-and-remarried need the fullness of Church teaching. They also need a wise pastoral and community response to their difficulties that can help them grow in the Christian life, Pope Francis said on Friday in his new document on love in the family.

“The Church’s pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full ideal of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravation or unduly harsh or hasty judgements,” the Pope said in Amoris Laetitia.

Pope Francis’ highly anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the gifts and challenges of family life was published April 8.

Titled Amoris Laetitia, or The Joy of Love, the document was presented to journalists in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese. Signed March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, the release of the document was delayed in order to allow time for its translation into other languages.

The apostolic exhortation is the conclusion of a two-year synod process discussing both the beauty and challenges of family life today. Hosted at the Vatican in 2014 and 2015, these synods gathered hundreds of bishops from around the world.

While much of the Western secular media focused its coverage on homosexuality and the question of communion for the divorced-and-civilly remarried, actual topics discussed in the meetings were much broader, with synod fathers touching on themes such as domestic violence, incest and abuse within families, and marriage preparation.

Pope Francis acknowledged the attention generated by the synods, saying, “The debates carried on in the media, in certain publications and even among the Church’s ministers, range from an immoderate desire for total change without sufficient reflection or grounding, to an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations.”

The wide-ranging document included Biblical reflections on family, as well as discussion of the family as a place of faith and labor, celebration and tears. The Pope spoke about sexuality within marriage and on the sometimes devastating effects of poverty and migration on families. He also touched on the importance of communication within the family, the challenges of raising children in a technology-saturated world, and the witness of virginity.

Pope Francis devoted a substantial section of the document to the topic of educating children, observing, “The family is thus the place where parents become their children’s first teachers in the faith.” He also offered suggestions for improving marriage preparation programs, inviting engaged couples to consider a simple wedding and to set aside technological distractions.

In a world where many have lost respect for marriage and are delaying the union or choosing cohabitation instead, the Church must speak up, Pope Francis said.

“As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings,” he reflected. “We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer.”

At the same time, he said, “there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.”

Pope Francis praised the “indissolubility of marriage,” saying that it “should not be viewed as a ‘yoke’ imposed on humanity, but as a ‘gift’ granted to those who are joined in marriage.” He added that “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling.”

In addition, he said that, “divorced people who have not remarried, and often bear witness to marital fidelity, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life.”

In the document’s introduction, Pope Francis wrote that, “everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight,” which is titled “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness.”

That chapter, which describes the Church as “a field hospital,” discusses the pastoral care of the divorced-and-civilly-remarried, as well as those who cohabit and face other irregularities.

Pope Francis wrote that, “it is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community.” He emphasized that the divorced-and-remarried “can find themselves in a variety of situations” and that this variety requires discernment and accompaniment on the part of pastors.

The Pope voiced agreement with the Synod Fathers’ observations that divorced-and-remarried Catholics need to be “more fully integrated into Christian communities…while avoiding any occasion of scandal.” He restated that the divorced-and-remarried are not excommunicated, and quoted the Synod Fathers, who had said that, “language or conduct that might lead them to feel discriminated against should be avoided.”

Care for these persons is not a weakening of Christian faith and belief in the indissolubility of marriage, but is rather “a particular expression of its charity,” he said, again quoting the Synod Fathers.

While he affirmed the ideal of sacramental marriage in ministering to those in broken situations, the Pope also rejected a one-size-fits-all approach to individual cases.

Considering the “immense variety of concrete situations” that the divorced-and-remarried have put themselves in, he said, “it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules … applicable to all cases.”

Instead, he said, what is possible is “a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases” which would recognize varying degrees of responsibility and therefore varying consequences or effects.

This is also the case with admission to the sacraments of Confession and Communion, he said, due to mitigating factors that might reduce a person’s culpability.

“Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace,” Pope Francis said. “More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may … be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.”

Someone in such a situation of objective sin but without full culpability can grow in charity with the help of the Church, and “in certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments,” he noted. “I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’,” he added, quoting from his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

The Pope acknowledged the importance of fidelity to the Gospel, saying that, “To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being.”

He called it “reductive” in discernment merely “to consider whether or not an individual’s actions correspond to a general law or rule.”

“A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings.”

Pope Francis professed understanding for those who prefer “a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion.”

“But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, ‘always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street’.”

 

THE SYNOD’S LIGHTS AND SHADOWS SEEN IN FINAL DOCUMENT

Following is an excellent summary of remarks made by Fr. Lombardi after the release Saturday evening of the final document of the three week-long synod on the family. The document, published at this point only in the original Italian, will eventually be published in other languages after what everyone hopes will be careful and accurate translations. There were huge translation problems at the 2014 synod – at least from Italian into English – where entire meanings of paragraphs were changed.

The 94-paragraph document has been given to Pope Francis and, as I write, only the Holy Father knows what will come of that. Will he produce a magisterial papal document – as hoped for by many Synod Fathers and other participants? Will it be given to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops to file away with other documents – or will it produce a new one?

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the document is how it was reported on by the media. Headlines ranged from observations and victory language on the far right to observations and language of victories won on the far left. And just about everything in between.

For now, here is Father Lombardi’s summary. When we have the entire English translation (and I’ve checked it out against the Italian), I’ll bring you that. I will try in coming days to synthesize the Pope’s speech to the synod at its closing.

(VIS) – The Synod Fathers approved by 177 votes out of 265, a two-thirds majority, the final Relatio of the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod on the Family, made up of 94 paragraphs, each one of which was voted on individually. The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., gave a briefing on the document, which was authorised for publication in Italian by Pope Francis. (photo ANSA for news.va)

FR. FEDERICO LOMBARDI

Fr. Lombardi remarked that the text takes into account the many difficulties faced by the family, but also its great capacity for facing and reacting to them. The conclusive document of the Synod includes many of the amendments to the Instrumentum Laboris presented by the Synod Fathers and therefore reflects the voice of the Assembly.

With reference to the two paragraphs dedicated to complex family situations, which were approved by a very slender majority of 178 and 180 votes, Fr. Lombardi noted that they regard the pastoral approach to wounded families or those that are irregular from a canonical point of view and in terms of the discipline of the Church: in particular, cohabitation, civil marriage, divorced and remarried persons and the way of pastorally addressing these situations.

Fr. Lombardi underlined that the tone of the document is positive and welcoming, and that it has greatly enriched the Instrumentum Laboris. Similarly, the Pope’s Motu Proprio on the reform of marriage annulment procedures made an effective and decisive contribution to the theme of the Synod.

The final Relatio reaffirms the doctrine of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, which is not a yoke but rather a gift from God, a truth based in Christ and in His relationship with the Church. At the same time, it underlines that truth and mercy converge in Christ, which leads to welcome to wounded families. Without expressly mentioning access to the Eucharist for remarried divorcees, the Synod document recalls that they are not excommunicated and refers the analysis of complex family situations to the discernment of pastors. This discernment, the text underlines, must be applied in accordance with the teaching of the Church, with trust in God’s mercy that is denied to no-one. With regard to cohabiting couples, the text reiterates that this situation should be faced constructively, seeking to transform it into an opportunity for a path to conversion towards the fullness of marriage and family, in the light of the Gospel.

Other salient points of the document refer to homosexuality. There must be no discrimination against people with homosexual tendencies, but at the same time the text states that the Church is contrary to same-sex unions and external pressure on the Church in relation to this matter is not accepted. There are special paragraphs dedicated to immigrants, refugees and persecuted families who are often divided and whose members can become victims of trafficking. A welcoming approach was invoked for them too, recalling their rights and also their duties in their host countries.

There are specific paragraphs on women, men and children, the mainstays of family life: the text emphasises the need for the protection and the recognition of the value of their respective roles. It is hoped that a more prominent role will be identified for women in the formation of ordained ministers, while in relation to children mention was made of the beauty of adoption and fostering, practices which reconstruct ruptured family bonds. The Synod does not forget widows and widowers, the disabled, the elderly and grandparents, who enable the transmission of faith in the family and must be protected from the throwaway culture. Unmarried people must also be acknowledged for their commitment to the Church and society.

Among the “shadows” that are frequently cast on the family, the Synod notes the presence of political and religious fanaticism hostile to Christianity, growing individualism, gender ideology, conflicts, persecution, poverty, precarious employment, corruption, economic difficulties that can exclude families from education and culture, the globalisation of indifference in which humanity’s place at the centre of society is usurped by money, pornography, and the declining birth rate.

The Relation therefore gathers together suggestions for strengthening preparation for marriage, especially for the young who appear intimidated by it. They are in need, says the Synod, of an adequate emotional formation, following the virtues of chastity and self-giving. In this regard, mention was made of the bond between the sexual act and procreation between spouses, of which children are the most precious fruit, since they bear the memory and hope of an act of love. Another bond is that between the vocation of the family and the vocation to consecrated life. Education in sexuality and corporeality and the promotion of responsible parenting would also be central, in accordance with the teachings of Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae” and the primary role of parents in the education of their children in faith.

An appeal is launched to institutions to promote an support policies in favour of the family, and Catholics engaged in politics are exhorted to protect the family and life, as a society that neglects them loses its openness to the future. In this respect, the Synod reaffirms the sacredness of life from conception to natural death, and warns against the grave threats posed to the family by abortion and euthanasia. Further paragraphs are dedicated to mixed marriages, whose positive aspects in relation to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue are underlined, while confirming the need to protect religious freedom and the right to conscientious objection in society.

The text includes extensive reflection on the need to modify the language of the Church, making it more meaningful so that the proclamation of the Gospel of the family may truly respond to the deepest human aspirations. This means not only presenting a series of regulations but rather announcing the grace that gives the capacity to live well the good of the family.

Finally, the Relatio emphasises the beauty of the family: as a domestic church based on marriage between a man and a woman, the fundamental cell of the society whose growth it contributes, a safe entry to the deepest sentiments, the sole point of connection in a fragmented age, and an integral part of human ecology, it must be protected, supported and encouraged, also by the authorities.

The document concludes by a plea to the Synod Fathers by the Pope, regarding the possibility of producing a document on the family. As Fr. Lombardi explains, “The Synod Fathers do not say that all is complete, but affirm that they offer the Relatio to the Holy Father to enable him to evaluate whether to continue on this route with a document, on the basis of the Synod text, to further examine the theme of the family from the perspective he wishes to offer. ‘We continue on our path’”.

 

VATICAN INSIDER: A SYNOD COUPLE SPEAKS, PART TWO – POPE FRANCIS CREATES NEW VATICAN OFFICE – SYNOD FATHERS REACT TO DRAFT OF FINAL DOCUMENT

VATICAN INSIDER: A SYNOD COUPLE SPEAKS, PART TWO

Please tune in this weekend to “Vatican Insider” for Part Two of my conversation with Cathy and Tony Witczak, a couple from Philadephia who have been married for 48 years, are leaders in the Worldwide Marriage Encouter movement and auditors at the synod on the family They talk to me about Marriage Encounter, how they were invited to the synod, what they are hearing and seeing and what their hopes are for the post-synod period, including a papal document. They addressed the synod last week.

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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=

POPE FRANCIS CREATES NEW VATICAN OFFICE

We have heard about this possibility for months but Thursday, at the beginning of the afternoon General Congregation of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis formalized the news with the following announcement:

“I have decided to establish a new Dicastery with competency for Laity, Family and Life, that will replace the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Pontifical Academy for Life will be joined to the new Dicastery. To this end, I have constituted a special commission that will prepare a text delineating canonically the competencies of the new Dicastery. The text will be presented for discussion to the Council of Caridnals at their next meeting in December.”

Dicastery is another word for an office of the Roman Curia, such as a pontifical council or a congregation. The new office for Laity, Family and Life, has not been given a name but indications are that it will be a congregation.

The Pontifical Council for the Laity was instituted in 1967 by Paul VI who acted on some of the suggestions from Vatican Council II that had ended in December 1965.

It seemed fitting that Pope Francis announced the new dicastery on October 22, the feast day of St. John Paul II, the Pope who created two of the above-mentioned dicasteries.

In fact, the Pontifical Council for the Family was instituted by John Paul II in 1981 with the Motu Proprio “Familia e Deo Instituta.” It substituted the Committee for the Family created by Paul VI in 1973. Thirteen years later, on February 11, 1994, St. John Paul instituted the Pontifical Academy for Life with the Motu Proprio “Vitae Mysterium.”

SYNOD FATHERS REACT TO DRAFT OF FINAL DOCUMENT

With just two days to go until the end of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, participants on Friday gave their reactions to a draft of the final document which is now being fine-tuned and will be voted on by the bishops on Saturday.

At a press conference following the Friday morning session, press office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi was joined by Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana, Canadian Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix of Quebec and Belgian Archbishop Lucas Van Looy of Ghent to talk about their hopes for the outcome of the three-week meeting.

Vatican Radio’s Philippa Hitchens reports on Friday’s press briefing:

Long days and sleepless nights is how Cardinal Turkson characterised the work of the drafting committee, currently trying to integrate over 1,350 proposals for changes to the original working document put forward by the Synod’s small groups. On top of that, there were over 50 further comments made in the Synod Hall on Friday on subjects ranging from biblical quotations, to pastoral formation to the crucial question of the relationship between the Church’s moral law and the individual’s right to follow his or her own conscience.

Is it possible to integrate so many differing perspectives without watering down the contents of the final document, journalists wanted to know? Will the substance of the debate on key issues really be reflected, or must it be sacrificed to the need for consensus that can be accepted by all? Cardinal Lacroix noted the final Synod document is not a legislative text so it doesn’t have to reflect unanimity among the Church leaders – on the contrary, he said, differences of opinion reflect a healthy engagement with the difficult issues under discussion.

Among them are the ever-present questions of how to help divorced and remarried couples be reintegrated into the life of the Church and how to approach the issue of homosexuality, which some Synod fathers suggest has not been adequately dealt with at this meeting. Not so, said Cardinal Turkson, revealing that in his small group some bishops and cardinals themselves had shared experiences of gay members of their families. The cardinal also reiterated the view of another Ghanaian participant who told journalists that attitudes in Africa on this issue are changing, faster than they are in other parts of the world.

All three participants pointed to the important experience of synodality, as outlined in the Pope’s own words, allowing bishops in the different parts of the globe greater freedom to exercise leadership, while allowing the Pope to draw on the wealth of local expertise and experience.

Archbishop Van Looy said another key word of this Synod is tenderness, heralding a new attitude of the Church to stop judging and start journeying with people in whatever situation they may find themselves. While it’s vital to support families who do live up to Church teaching, Cardinal Lacroix said there is no such thing as the perfect family and the Church must remain close to all those looking for God’s grace in times of struggle and need.

 

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.

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.