“WE CANNOT RESIGN OURSELVES TO A MIDDLE EAST WITHOUT CHRISTIANS” – BLESSED POPE PAUL VI: A COURAGEOUS CHRISTIAN, TIRELESS APOSTLE – POPE SAYS SYNOD A JOURNEY OF “CONSOLATION, GRACE, AND COMFORT,” OF “TENSIONS AND TEMPTATIONS” . FINAL REPORT: THE LIGHTS AND SHADOWS OF MARRIAGE AND THE FAMILY IN CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY

 

Over the years, among the many special things my Dad kept in a big black, loose-leaf binder on his desk, were pieces of paper on which he had copied items he had read and especially liked – sayings, poems, little seeds of wisdom from a newspaper or a calendar, even special phrases from greetings cards or letters he had received. When he died, I was going through his various files and, among the countless pages that made me smile, laugh out loud or cry, were these thoughts on saints. It seemed right to share these with you the day after the beatification of Pope Paul Paul VI:(The Internet was brand new when Dad died so I never searched the author at the time. I did so today and have found various attributions, from names to unknown):

“Why were the saints, saints? Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful, patient when it was difficult to be patient; and because they pushed on when they wanted to stand still, and kept silent when they wanted to talk, and were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable. That was all. It was quite simple and always will be.”

Yesterday and today, I posted photos on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/joansrome) that I took at the beatification celebration. I also published the English text of Pope Francis’ amazing words Saturday evening at the end of the synod and after the vote on the final relatio, and the Message (NOT to be confused with final report) from the Synod Fathers. I hope and believe you will be edified by the Pope’s words and by the Message, especially the papal remarks if you want a “read” on Francis’ appraisal of the synod.

How well were Francis’ words received in the synod hall? He received a five-minute standing ovation!

“WE CANNOT RESIGN OURSELVES TO A MIDDLE EAST WITHOUT CHRISTIANS”

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis convened a Consistory of Cardinals on Monday morning in the Vatican. Originally scheduled in order to proceed with the causes of candidates for beatification, the Holy Father expanded the agenda of the meeting to include discussion of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. In remarks to the gathered Cardinals at the morning session of the gathering, the Holy Father focused on the need for constant prayer and effective advocacy in favor of peace, and for specific attention to the plight of Christians there.

Describing the notion of a Mideast region devoid of Christians as literally unthinkable, Pope Francis went on to mention Iraq and Syria as two countries in which Christians – who have made their homes there since Apostolic times – are facing unprecedented threats. “We cannot resign ourselves to thinking about the Middle East without Christians, who for two thousand years have confessed the name of Jesus [there].”

“Recent events,” the Pope continued, “especially in Iraq and Syria, are very worrying. We are witnessing a phenomenon of terrorism of previously unimaginable dimensions. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have [been constrained] leave their homes in a brutal way.” Saying that the situation appears to be one in which people no longer appreciate the value of human life, Pope Francis decried the spirit of indifference that seems to dominate, making the sacrifice of the human person to other interests a matter of course. “This unfair situation,” he said, “requires an adequate response by the international community, as well as and in addition to our constant prayer.”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “I am sure that, with the help of the Lord, genuinely worthwhile reflection and suggestions will emerge, in order to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering, and also to face the drama of the reduction of the Christian presence in the land where He was born and from which Christianity spread.”

Later in the morning, there was a briefing by press office director Fr. Federico Lombardi who reported on the talk by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State. The cardinal, said Vatican Radio, presented a summary view of the meeting of Apostolic Nuncios to the countries of the region that took place at the beginning of October. Articulated in six points, the speech stressed that the present situation – broadly speaking and in particular as it regards the Christian communities present in the region – is unacceptable. “Fundamental principles, such as the value of [human] life, human dignity, religious liberty, and peaceful coexistence among peoples and individuals are at stake.”

To read Cardinal Parolin’s well-received talk, click here: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/10/20/card_parolin_on_me_rights_threatened,_risk_of_genocide_/1109019

BLESSED POPE PAUL VI: A COURAGEOUS CHRISTIAN, TIRELESS APOSTLE

Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis celebrated the closing Mass for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, during which he beatified his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, calling him a “great Pope,” a “courageous Christian” and a “tireless apostle.”

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“We have just heard one of the most famous phrases in the entire Gospel,” began Francis, “’Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Some of the 70,000 present.20141019_114554

He noted that Jesus was “goaded by the Pharisees who wanted, as it were, to give him an exam in religion and catch him in error, Jesus gives this ironic and brilliant reply. It is a striking phrase which the Lord has bequeathed to all those who experience qualms of conscience, particularly when their comfort, their wealth, their prestige, their power and their reputation are in question. This happens all the time; it always has.

The altar and some of the many hundreds of priests. 20141019_114649

But, said the Pope, Jesus stresses the second part of the phrase: “[render] to God the things that are God’s’. This calls for acknowledging and professing – in the face of any sort of power – that God alone is the Lord of mankind, that there is no other. This is the perennial newness to be discovered each day, and it requires mastering the fear that we often feel at God’s surprises.”

Close-up of the altar: 20141019_114820

The Holy Father explained to the 70,000 faithful present that, “’rendering to God the things that are God’s’ means being docile to his will, devoting our lives to him and working for his kingdom of mercy, love and peace.” And, he added, “Here is where our true strength is found; here is the leaven that makes it grow and the salt that gives flavor to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us. Here too is where our hope is found, for when we put our hope in God we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi: instead, we are striving to render to God what is God’s.”

Priests descending to give communion. 20141019_115305 20141019_115844

Pope Francis then spoke of the synod on the family that ended with Sunday’s Mass, saying, “ It has been a great experience, in which we lived synodality and collegiality, and felt the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the Church. For the Church is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope.”

“May the Holy Spirit, who during these busy days has enabled us to work generously, in true freedom and humble creativity, continue to guide the journey that, in the churches throughout the world, is bringing us to the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015.”

Altar 20141019_115514

Then, Pope Francis spoke beautifully and movingly about his predecessor, especially for a new generation that would not have known this Pope who reigned from 1963 to 1978:

“On this day of the beatification of Pope Paul VI, I think of the words with which he established the Synod of Bishops: ‘by carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods… to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society’.

Pope Francis 20141019_120625_2

”When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!

Archbishop Rino Fisichella gives interview after Mass. 20141019_123213

”In his personal journal,” concluded Pope Francis, “the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: ‘Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that He, and no other, is her guide and savior’. In this humility the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.”

Greeting the faithful in St. Peter’s Square 20141019_123732

POPE SAYS SYNOD A JOURNEY OF “CONSOLATION, GRACE, AND COMFORT,” OF “TENSIONS AND TEMPTATIONS”

Pope Francis began his remarks to the synod participants on Saturday, at the end of two weeks of work, with words of thanks to the organizers, the Synod of Bishops, to participants and to all who guided the two-week long assembly on the family.

“It has been ‘a journey’,” said the Pope in the heart of his message, “and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say ‘enough’; other moments of enthusiasm and ardor. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

– The temptation to a destructive tendency to be do-gooders [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called ‘progressives and liberals’.

– The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

– The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

– The temptation to neglect the ‘depositum fide’” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them ‘byzantinisms’, I think, these things…”

The Holy Father said, ”Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).”

“And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

“The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err:…”

He reminded those “commentators” who would see “a disputatious Church where one part is against the other,” that the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

“We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.”

Quoting a lengthy passage by Benedict XVI on service, he said, in part: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority that is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is He who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply.”

Francis said, “The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the ‘servant of the servants of God’; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the ‘supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful’and despite enjoying ‘supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church’.”

“Dear brothers and sisters,” said the Pope in closing, “now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.”

After the Te Deum was sung and the papal blessing imparted, Francis said, “Thank you, and rest well, eh?”

FINAL REPORT: THE LIGHTS AND SHADOWS OF MARRIAGE AND THE FAMILY IN CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY

Judging from the headlines that have described the just-completed work of the synod of bishops, one could easily be pardoned for thinking that the Vatican had dedicated the last two weeks to a lengthy discussion on homosexuals, same sex unions, and communion for the divorced and remarried.

The theme of the 2014 extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops was “‎Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of ‎evangelization.” And the several hundred synod fathers, delegates and invited guests did talk for two weeks – first in the larger assembly and then in smaller language groups – about those issues but also about the myriad challenges that married couples and families face today. They spoke of families that fully respond to their Christian vocation, families that are faithful to the teaching of Christ on marriage, and of those families that are “wounded.” single parent homes, divorced and separated couples, homes where there is abuse of some sort, where families have been abanadoned by one parent or there are otherwise fragile relations, families hit by economic hard times and unemployment.

The synod looked at the “lights and shadows” of family life, but did not overlook any of the tough issues or what have been called “hot button” issues such as same sex unions. Participants emphasized the duty of pastors and shepherds to listen to their flock and to accompany them, to be there in times of joy and times of trial and need.

Emphasis was put on marriage preparation and accompaniment in the first years of marriage. It was placed on the pastoral care for those who cohabit and those in civil marriages. Emphasis was placed on pastoral caring for the “wounded” families – the separated, divorced but not remarried, divorced and remarried, single family homes. The final report spoke of pastoral attention for “those persons with homosexual orientation.”

The document re-affirmed marriage as a sacramental union between a man and a woman, emphasizing fidelity, unity and, above all, indissolubility. In no way, said the document can a same sex union be equated with or likened to marriage as taught by the Church although persons with homosexual tendencies “must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity.”

On Saturday afternoon, when the “Relatio synodi” was released and voted upon, Pope Francis authorized the immediate publication of the full text, This document (only in Italian for now) will provide the focus for reflection by episcopal conferences throughout the world this year in preparation for the 2015 synod on the family. The Pope also authorized the publication of the number of votes for each point. The paragraphs on gays and the divorced and remarried did not receive two-thirds of the vote by the 183 bishops in attendance, but rather a simply majority.

In the end, the final document, an 8,300-word treatise (so far only in Italian) of 62 paragraphs reiterated Catholic teachings on marriage and the family.

I will take a closer look at some parts of this lengthy document in coming days.

One interesting takeaway for me: Late Saturday night, hours after the “Relatio synodi” was released, I read a number of early media reports and was struck by one thing immediately: the relative absence of the word “family” in articles describing the conclusion of a synod on the family.

I looked at 8 media stories totalling 6,185 words: 4 were wire services, 3 were newspaper stories and one was a CRUX article by well known vaticanista, John Allen. I did a computer count and an eye count of the words “family” and “families”: they were used 14 times!

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LOST IN TRANSLATION

What a day! Following a quick trip to the market to buy coffee and orange juice, an interview for AP television, reading emails and answering a few in the press office, attending the press briefing that began at 1 pm and ended at 2:20, I had time to eat a croissant for lunch and get over to the North American College for an interview with Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB.

Got home at 4:20 and the second part of my work day began: study the notes from the press conference and write a column, upload photos from the briefing for my blog, upload the audio interview of Abp. Kurtz, prepare my weekend show for Vatican Radio which we tape tomorrow and edit my interview of Cardinal Dolan for my EWTN radio show, “Vatican Insider.” Hopefully it will not be another two-slices-of-pizza-for-dinner evening.

I am fairly sure my schedule mirrors that of many journalists covering the synod. My interview with AP television was interesting. They saw my video on Youtube of the tap dancing seminarians at last April’s Rector’s Dinner at the North American College and decided to do a feature story given that the video, as of today, has garnered 242,020 views!! They have also interviewed, as you would imagine, the two dancing NACers – David Rider is now Fr. David Rider and John Gibson is soon to follow! Bless them!

If October 16 rings some kind of a bell for you, it was 36 years ago today – almost at the exact same time that I am writing these words! – that Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland was elected to the papacy, taking the name of John Paul II. Thank you for your years at the helm of the barque of Peter, St. John Paul!

LOST IN TRANSLATION

The press briefing on the synod today featured Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the multi-lingual Dominican archbishop of Vienna and an Italian couple present at the synod, Prof. Francesco Miano and his wife Pia de Simone (women keep their maiden names in Italy).

Before each of the three guests made opening remarks, Father Lombardi made a few business announcements. He said journalists would receive the texts of what was said in the 10 language groups that have been meeting this week, with the explicit approval of the members of all groups. He was clear that these texts are, as was the relatio published Monday, only working texts, not definitive ones. Suggestions, proposals and amendments to the relatio or report that were made in the language groups – seems there many hundreds! – will be studied and eventually incorporated into a final document that will probably be ready sometime after Saturday evening.

He announced that Pope Francis, when it was brought to his attention that not all continents were represented on the small group that will write the final report, named Cardinal Napier of Durban, South Africa and Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, Australia as members.

Father Lombardi also announced that Cardinal Mueller, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, told him that what has been reported that he said about the relatio – that it was “shameful” – is not at all true, “not at all my style.”

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The relatio – and what was “lost in translation” (or perhaps “transformed in translation”) when it was translated into different languages from the official Italian – was the main takeaway at today’s briefing.

A re-translated English text of the relatio (re-translated from the English text we were given Monday) was provided today to journalists. Several key paragraphs, especially those in the section related to homosexuality, had been notably changed (I want to be careful here to insist on the fact that we were always told it was a draft, a working text, not a definitive one).

In the first instance, the original English we received called this section of the relatio or report, “Welcoming homosexuals.” Today’s translation says, “Providing for homosexual persons.” The same section, Para 50, said in the original, “Are we capable of welcoming these people…” Today it says: “Are we capable of providing for these people?”

When asked about the changes – and which translation journalists should use – Fr. Lombardi said, “we have always said that the Italian is the original text of the relatio and that is the text you must use when writing.”

This is obviously fine if you speak Italian.

By the by, it might be helpful to remember that Monday, during the press briefing to present the relatio, Cardinal Peter Erdo, relator general of the synod, in answer to a question about the report, pointed to his right, to Archbishop Bruno Forte and said, “ask him, he wrote it.” So the author is apparently an Italian archbishop.

The original English – not today’s document – corresponded precisely to the Italian: Title: “Accogliere le persone omosessuali” (“Welcoming homosexuals”) – siamo in grado di accogliere queste persone… ( “Are we capable of welcoming these people…”)

Another word I noted (and this was reported in CNA) that was truly “transformed in translation” was the Italian word “valutando.” This was translated in both the original English and today’s English as “valuing” when in reality the accurate translation is “evaluating.”

Official Italian, Para 50: Le nostre comunità sono in grado di esserlo accettando e valutando il loro orientamento sessuale, senza compromettere la dottrina cattolica su famiglia e matrimonio?

English: Are our communities capable of this (this meaning offering a welcoming home), of accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony.

It does change considerably if you substitute evaluating for valuing.

What changes will we see in the final relatio? We will have to read the Italian to know.

Cardinal Schonborn, in introductory remarks at the briefing, said the current synod is not his first but he has been greatly impressed by the amount of interest shown for the ongoing synod. He said he felt it was “because the themes touch each one of us, we are all from families, we have families, we have the immediate family and the broader one of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents.” He said that, “when there are problems in life, the first recourse is always family.”

The cardinal then told an interesting story to make a point – the story of the Donner Pass pioneers. The Donner Pass is a mountain pass in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains where, in November 1846 a group of 91 pioneers heading to California – the Donner party – became blocked by snow and bad weather and was forced to spend the winter on the east side of the mountains. Conditions were so terrible that only 41 survived the winter hardships and, said the cardinal, it was those who had family ties who survived and eventually reached California.

He stressed “how important it is now for us, for the synod to show this reality of family ties, of survivors. We need to remember how such ties are linked to survival. Too often we see only the immediate family but we need to see the broader family. We need to look at the fundamental role of family in society. The Pope wants us to mainly look at what is positive about the family, its beauty and the need for family. Not only but the beauty but also the challenges.”

Above all, Cardinal Schonborn underscored how this discussion on the family is a “camino,” a walk on a path. The discussion on the family began last February with the consistory, it continues now with this synod and will end next October at the ordinary synod on the family… And in between there will be discussions, etc. at diocesan and parish levels throughout the world. The cardinal said a key word throughout the synod has been “to accompany.”

The married couple said their synod experience was a “great experience and great responsibility. It is a decisive moment for the Church in the spirit of Vatican Council II and also of the Church’s love for every person.” Pia de Simone spoke of the great seriousness of this synod, saying it is also “very realistic.” The synod is looking at the “effective reality, the beauty of family relations and, as Cardinal Schonborn said, the search for new pastoral ways to help and support families.”

Cardinal Schornborn was asked how he planned to talk to Catholics back in Austria who, on the basis of what they have read and heard about the synod, might have doubts and fears.

He began his answer by saying, “I too have doubts and fears.” He said the main challenge not only of the synod but of bishops and priests everywhere is how to live with the “tension” that comes from obeying and living doctrine and also acting like Jesus who lived and preached mercy. “Joining the two is the perennial challenge for us. We must find equilibrium. We cannot forget doctrine and yet Pope Francis speaks of ‘field hospitals’ in caring for the suffering.”

(In fact, in an interview with Antonio Spadaro, director of the Italian Jesuit magazine Civiltà Cattolica, Pope Francis said: “I can clearly see that what the Church needs today is the ability to heal wounds and warm the hearts of faithful, it needs to be by their side. I see the Church as a field hospital after a battle. It’s pointless to ask a seriously injured patient whether his cholesterol or blood sugar levels are high! It’s his wounds that need to be healed. The rest we can talk about later. Now we must think about treating those wounds. And we need to start from the bottom.”)

He spoke of doctrine but the archbishop of Vienna also noted that in the teaching of Pope John Paul there was a notable development of theology, of Christian doctrine, as sen for example, in his theology of the body. Traditional theology did not have this idea.” He asked, “Will Pope Francis contribute to a doctrinal development? We’ll see. He invites us to pastoral conversion, to looking at situations, to become missionaries.”

On questions regarding homosexuality, Cardinal Schonborn said, “for the Church, the principle is to first look at the person, not the orientation. This is a basic, human, Christian behavior. While the Church teaches respect for every human person and their innate dignity, this does not mean respect for all human behavior. Same sex orientation is not the fundamental orientation the Creator has given for men and women.” He also noted “we should not look first in the bedroom but in the living room.”

He also said he knew a same sex couple and they are “wonderful human beings.” He said that when one partner became very sick, the other was “almost saintly” in caring for them.

STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF SECRETARIAT OF SYNOD OF BISHOPS – POPE FRANCIS: OUR FINAL DESTINATION IS TO BE WITH THE LORD FOREVER – POPE MARKS 5TH CENTENARY OF TERESA OF AVILA – CRITIQUES AND QUESTIONS AT SYNOD PRESS BRIEFINGS – CHRISTIAN REFUGEES IN ERBIL TO RECEIVE PREFABRICATED HOUSES

I received the following email today from the Vatican Library and want to share it with you: “The Vatican Library now has an official Twitter account, in Italian (@bibliovaticana) and in English (@vaticanlibrary). All communications about our activities will be entrusted to tweets that, from time to time, will be also displayed on our homepage. If you wish to receive our tweets and be constantly kept up-to-date, follow us on Twitter or keep an eye on the tweets on the web.”

A few news items follow, including Pope Francis’ weekly general audience. I’ve also posted a summary of today’s synod press briefing and, if time allows, will try to add more.

STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF SECRETARIAT OF SYNOD OF BISHOPS

Late yesterday after the following statement was released by the director of the Holy See Press Office on behalf of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops:

”The General Secretariat of the Synod, in response to reactions and discussions following the publication of the Relatio post disceptationem, and the fact that often a value has been attributed to the document that does not correspond to its nature, reiterates that it is a working document, which summarizes the interventions and debate of the first week, and is now being offered for discussion by the members of the Synod gathered in the Small Groups, in accordance with the Regulations of the Synod.”

POPE FRANCIS: OUR FINAL DESTINATION IS TO BE WITH THE LORD FOREVER

Pope Francis catechesis today at the general audience focused on the final destination of the People of God, with a strong accent on the virtue of hope. He began by quoting St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians who, anxious to know what would become of them: replied: “We will be with the Lord forever.” Francis said this was one of the most beautiful phrases of Sacred Scripture, and inviting the faithful to repeat it three times with him.

The Holy Father noted how John, in the Book of Revelations returns to the intuition of the Prophets and describes the final and definitive dimension in terms of “a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband,” This, said the Pope, is who the Church is: She is the people of God who follow the Lord Jesus and who prepares herself, day by day, for the encounter with Him, like a bride with her groom. And it is not simply a turn of phrase: it will be a true wedding. Yes, because Christ, who made Himself man like us, and making us one with Him, by His death and resurrection, truly took us as His spouse.”

I stopped by the general audience today after an interview with Cardinal Donald Wuerl at the synod hall – here are a few images of the Pope, the crowd and a group of flag throwers from Puglia, Italy.

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Francis explains another element that consoles us and opens our heart: The Church, the “new Jerusalem,” is “called to become a city, the quintessential symbol of co-existence and human relations. How beautiful it is to already be able to contemplate, according to another evocative image from Revelation, all the peoples and populations gathered together in this city, as if they were all under the same roof, in God’s home. And in this glorious setting there will be no more isolation, abuse or distinctions of any type – social, ethnic or religious – but we will all be one in Christ.”

“In the presence of this unprecedented and wonderful scene,” said Pope Francis, “hope can only be strongly confirmed in our heart. … Christian hope, then, is our joyful expectation of the Lord’s coming and the fulfilment of his saving plan for the human family. In every generation the Church holds high the lamp of this hope before the world. Today let us ask whether our own lamps are alight with the oil of faith, and to what extent we live as credible and joy-filled witnesses to our hope in God’s promises.”

POPE MARKS 5TH CENTENARY OF TERESA OF AVILA

Pope Francis has sent a message to Bishop Jesus Garcia Burillo of Avila, Spain on the occasion of the fifth centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, whose feast is celebrated today. In his letter, he mentions the joy the saint often spoke of “in encountering the suffering of work and pain,” and how she affirmed that “the Gospel is not a bag of lead that trails heavily behind us, but rather a source of joy that leads the heart to God and urges us to serve our brethren” He remarked how St. Teresa emphasized the importance of cheerful perseverance and prayer. For her, contemplative prayer was “a close sharing between friends; … taking time frequently to be alone with Him whom we know loves us.”

CRITIQUES AND QUESTIONS AT SYNOD PRESS BRIEFINGS

Cardinal Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, spoke to journalists today at the daily press briefing about the work being done in their language groups.

Cardinal Sistach said an “atmosphere of communion, fraternity, and pastorality” dominated the Spanish-speaking group he is in. The group noted how similar problems are on all continents such as difficult matrimonial situations, canonical problems, etc.. He reiterated that the relatio that the groups are studying is a working document, not a final one, but a document to which his group and the others will contribute suggestions and amendments.

Abp. Kurtz said his group experienced basically the same cordial atmosphere of “communiuo” and, with a broad smile, said he was smiling because his group had finished its work. He said his group has suggested amendments and, in the next document, people “will notice we were intent on making sure that message is one of hope that instills confidence. We want to be pastoral, to reach out and accompany people, to go where they are, to bring people closer to Christ. We worked hard to craft amendments and improve the report and we hope our work contributes to a deepened and improved pastoral Document.”

Abp. Fisichella said jokingly he was not smiling because he is the “relatore” and his work has just begun as he is now responsible for putting the amendments together, with several other prelates, for the next document. He said the language groups were “very cordial, very free. There were no time limits and there was a great variety in each group. It is in the language groups that we see the universality of the Church, the different ways of expressing or living problems on different continents.”

In the Q&A, one journalist spoke of the presence of “lobbies” in the press briefings, both conservative and liberal, and asked if the document is an answer to these groups?

Cardinal Sistach said the synod fathers spoke with great freedom, not answering to groups or interests, and this was reiterated by Abps. Kurtz and Fisichella. Abp.Kurtz said it was the synod fathers and all the delegates that influenced him, not media reports or interest groups.

The journalists’ questions principally revolved around the debate that has arisen since Monday’s publication of the relatio, a working document that was taken by many in the media to be a definitive statement of the Church’s teaching on a number of hot button issues in particular.

One journalist asked if, within the “cordial atmosphere of communio” in the language groups, there was also “disputatio.” Abp. Fisichella replied, “it would really have been a problem if there had been no debate, no differences of opinion, no ‘disputatio’. Fortunately there was and this is a way to grow. Otherwise there would be a boring uniformity.”

Abp.Kurtz said, “the very amendment process is a form of disputatio, with people helping and being attentive to each other and to other ideas.” He said that, “differences can refine contributions,” adding that, “it will take some very careful work to be true to Church teaching and also to reach out.”

“There was ‘disputatio’,” said Barcelona’s archbishop. “There are different opinions, we saw different tendencies and trends, different sensibilities, different contributions.”

Abp. Fisichella, answering a question about the new evangelization, stressed that the family in the context of the new evangelization was precisely the work of the synod. The synod fathers are trying to verify in what way can the problems of families and the ideal of the Christian family become an object of evangelization. He said the crisis of faith is at the origin of today’s crisis in the family. Many synod fathers quoted Pope Francis “Evangelii gaudium” and St. John Paul’s “Familiaris consortio” in the hall, suggesting these be the basis for the family pastoral. He said, “where faith is strong, so is family.”

Cardinal Sistach said that, “the synod has recognized the great need for pastoral care of the family. The Church can do a lot for couples in crisis, as well as for stable families. We must help those who struggle, and we can and must do more in this area.”

Abp. Kurtz echoed the cardinal’s description and said the synod must help all couples, especially “those who do everything to make things work and those who strive to witness to their faith in the family.”

Asked what the principal modifications would be to Monday’s relatio, all three prelates said that all chapters would in some way be modified and the focus will be on the pastoral. Abp. Kurtz said amendments should help focus on and highlight the importance of loving families today. They should also make sure that the document’s words and expressions are “welcoming and from the heart.”

Abp. Fisichella said of the amendment process: “We know amendments can be made regarding even one word and we have to make sure we use clear, precise language. We also have to make sure that when we report that “’many synod fathers said thus and such’ that it really was ‘many’ and not just a few. We have to make sure that what we say truly reflects reality.” He added that, “interestingly enough, some suggestions were made in the language groups that did not come out in hall, for example: regarding the streamlining of the annulment process, it was suggested that annulments be free. The process should be the same for everyone and cost no one.” He also said that other suggestions concerned adoptions – these must be highlighted more, especially in Catholic families.

The three guests all spoke of the great contribution given by the laity in the synod. Abp. Kurtzx said, “we would have been shortchanged without the presence of the laity and couples.” He said he has been promoting restored confidence in marriage and said of a bishop’s task, “ours is a call to work outward, not inward…..we should also give witness to those who struggle but are faithful.”

CHRISTIAN REFUGEES IN ERBIL TO RECEIVE PREFABRICATED HOUSES

Fides news agency, an office of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, reports that the government in Baghdad has announced the launch of a project for the construction of at least 2,000 prefabricated housing units for refugees – mostly Christians – who have found shelter in the suburb of Ankawa, on the outskirts of Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The announcement – according to reports from local sources consulted by Fides – was released on Sunday, October 12 by the office of Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, in charge of rescue operations in favor of refugees. The project will be implemented in collaboration with authorities and government bodies in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The houses should be ready within 45 days, before the cold season enters its most acute phase. Twenty-three thousand prefabricated housing units have also been destined to the area of Dohuk, where around 50 % of the displaced who have fled from the cities of Mosul and Nineveh Plain are concentrated.

SYNOD REPORT STRESSES MERCY, LISTENING, WELCOMING – EXCERPTS FROM VATICAN SUMMARY OF THE “RELATIO” – RIGHT OF PALESTINIANS TO INDEPENDENT STATE “LONG OVERDUE”

The theme and dates for the 2015 Synod on the Family were announced this morning in the synod hall. The theme for the second part of the Synod on the Family will be “The vocation and the mission of the family within the Church and in the contemporary world.” The synod will take place from October 4-25, 2015. The issues dealt with during the first part of the Synod, which concludes this week, will be further discussed in this second part.

SYNOD REPORT STRESSES MERCY, LISTENING, WELCOMING

The synod today released what it has called its Midterm report, the “Relatio post disceptationem” or report that follows the discussion period that took place this week in the synod hall. The 5,800-word report, read in the hall today by Cardinal Peter Erdo of Hungary, the relator general of the synod, was the focus of the remarks made in a press briefing by Cardinals Erdo, Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila and Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Santiago, Chile and Archbishop Bruno Forte of of Chieti-Vasto. They also answered questions posed by journalists.

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The 58-paragraph “Relatio” is in four languages – Italian, English, Spanish and French: It may be accessed here in English: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2014/10/13/0751/03037.html

A 1,500-word summary of the principal points may be found in 4 languages at the Vatican Information Service (VIS). I offer several pertinent paragraphs at the end of this report. For English, click here: http://www.visnews-en.blogspot.it/2014/10/relatio-post-disceptationem-listen-to.html

I posted a Vatican Radio summary as well as the entire Relatio in English on http://www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420

What is noteworthy about this relatio, compared to many previous synodal and Vatican documents is its tone. It uses language that reflects the language of Francis since his election. The Pope speaks of mercy, understanding, dialogue, reconciliation, listening, welcoming. And the synod fathers spoke in those terms as well, especially when it came to very difficult pastoral issues like communion for the divorced and remarried, cohabitation, same sex unions, etc.

Though the report has in general toned down harsher language for one that is more conciliatory, and does not use phrases such as “living in sin” (cohabitation, for example) or “intrinsically disordered” (a reference to gay people) or “contraceptive mentality,” it does reaffirm Church teaching on the indissolubity of marriage, and the impossibility of celebrating or even blessing same sex unions. The relatio highlights mercy, “spiritual discernment,” “missionary conversion” as well as “a conversion of language.” It refers, for example, to “caring for wounded families” instead of those “living in sin.”

To a journalist who asked if communion for the divored and remarried or same sex unions seemed got the most attention, Cardinal Tagle said the themes that were among the most discussed topics were poverty, conflict, wars, the forced separation of families, forced migration, the situation of refugees, We asked how we as pastors provide pastoral care in these situations, or even other, such as inter-religious marriages.

Cardinal Ezzati said he listened very attentively. He said there is globalization, not only in economic spheres, but in the Church as well. There is a cultural change that is changing all of us, changing the Church. He said he saw a great capacity for listening n the synod, a great capacity for mercy and understanding. He said “the Universal Church was present in the synod hall with a heart of mercy, with the heart of pastors.”

Asked by one journalist if the “conservative voice” had been silenced in the synod hall, Cardinal Tagle, one of the three presidents delegate of the synod, was quick to state that there was ample space for all people and all voices in the synod. He cautioned, however, that we should be careful not to label people, not to use conservative or liberal because “labelling never totally captures a person.”

The cardinals said the document attempts to see and emphasize the positive of the synod and that it was an exercise in intellectual honesty as well as charity.

Cardinal Tagle said that the report “is a synthesis of our work, it is a mirror, like looking at ourselves and our work of this past week in a mirror.” He called the writers of the relatio “heroes” for bringing together the many topics raised in the synod, the many different cultural and linguistic expressions of a single issue, for example.

The report was followed this morning by two hours of very frank, very open, very free debate in the synod hall. Synod participants this afternoon began their smaller language group meetings, which will continue to the end of the synod. There will be another document after the language groups.

One point the cardinals underscored, in answer to a question, was how the participants said they felt “the spirit of Vatican Council II” in the hall. Cardinal Tagle said there were interventions that evoked the spirit of VCII in that the Council 50 years ago reflected on the Church and its mission in the contemporary world. It was not a Church closed in on itself and that was the spirit of this synod – a church looking at its mission in the contemporary world.

Other points made this morning:

– The synod must speak more of children, especially in same sex households. The child has a right to education. The importance of a mother (female) and a father (male) for the child. Parents have the right and must be the first educators of their children.
– The issues discussed in the synod are far more about the faithful than they are about bishops and bishops must be faithful to the discussion in the synod.
– Critical comments were made after the Relatio was given but then criticism was part of the discussions each day. Neither this document nor the final document will be binding but they will be used as part of and/or the basis for the 2015 synod.
– The participation of the laity in this synod has been extremely important and valuable and it is to be hoped the laity will participate in a great way in dioceses and parishes in the preparatory work for the 2015 synod. Abp. Forte stressed that “the laity are the protagonists.”
– On the laity: Cardinal Tagle said the mission received from Jesus involves the laity. The laity must be heard more often. Families must be missionary. “A faithful, loving married couple is an encouragement to pastors to be faithful in their ministry.”
– Abp. Forte: if we had to design a placard that defines the synod, it would be “Work in Progress.” He said there was a very effective use of synodality, of listening as well as talking, of walking together, of growing together, and also of the need for humility on the part of pastors. This was in the spirit of Vatican Council II, in the spirit of “Gaudium et spes” (Joy and Hope), a Church that looks with benevolence at the world.
– “Graduality” or “gradualness” was a new term often used in the synod, an important aspect. There are degrees of learning, of understanding, a spirit of accompanying, growing, maturing.

EXCERPTS FROM VATICAN SUMMARY OF THE “RELATIO”

“The Report sets out three main guidelines: listening to the socio-cultural context in which families live today; discussing the pastoral perspectives to be taken, and above all, looking to Christ and to His Gospel of the family.”

“Turning our gaze to Christ ‘reaffirms the indissoluble union between a man and a woman’, but also allows us to ‘interpret the nuptial covenant in terms of continuity and novelty’. The principle, explains Cardinal Erdo, must be that of ‘gradualness’ for couples in failed marriages, with an ‘inclusive perspective’ for the ‘imperfect form of nuptial reality: ‘Realizing the need, therefore, for spiritual discernment with regard to cohabitation, civil marriages and divorced and remarried persons, it is the task of the Church to recognise those seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries. … The Church turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings’.

“There is a need, therefore, for a ‘new dimension of family pastoral’ able to nurture seeds in the process of maturation, such as civil marriages characterized by stability, deep affection, and responsibility in relation to offspring, and which may lead to a sacramental bond. Frequently cohabitation or de facto unions are not dictated by a rejection of Christian values, but rather by practical needs, such as waiting for a stable job. The Church, a true ‘House of the Father’, a ‘torch carried among the people’, continued the Cardinal, must accompany ‘her most fragile sons and daughters, marked by wounded and lost love, with attention and care’, restoring trust and hope to them.

“In the third part, the post-discussion Report goes on to face the ‘most urgent pastoral issues, the implementation of which is entrusted to the individual local Churches, always in communion with the Pope. First, the ‘proclamation of the Gospel of the family’ is ‘not to condemn, but to cure human fragility’. This proclamation also involves the faithful: “Evangelising is the shared responsibility of all God’s people, each according to his or her own ministry and charism. Without the joyous testimony of spouses and families, the announcement, even if correct, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words that is a characteristic of our society. Catholic families are themselves called upon to be the active subjects of all the pastoral of the family’.

“The Gospel of the family is ‘joy’, underlined Cardinal Erdo, and therefore requires ‘a missionary conversion’ so as not to stop at a proclamation that is ‘merely theoretical and has nothing to do with people’s real problems’. At the same time, it is also necessary to act in relation to language: ‘Conversion has, above all, to be that of language so that this might prove to be effectively meaningful’. … “

“Moving on to the issue of separated couples, divorced persons, including those subsequently remarried, Cardinal Erdo underlined that “it is not wise to think of single solutions or those inspired by a logic of ‘all or nothing’”; dialogue must therefore continue in the local Churches, “with respect and love” for every wounded family, thinking of those who have unjustly suffered abandonment by their spouse, avoiding discriminatory attitudes and protecting children: “It is indispensable to assume in a faithful and constructive way the consequences of separation or divorce on the children; they must not become an ‘object’ to be fought over and the most suitable means need to be sought so that they can get over the trauma of family break-up and grow up in the most serene way possible’.

“With regard to the streamlining of procedures for the recognition of matrimonial nullity, the General Rapporteur of the Synod reported the proposals made by the Assembly: to abandon the need for the double conforming sentence, to establish an administrative channel at diocesan level, and the introduction of a summary process in the case of clear nullity, and the possibility of “giving weight to the faith of those about to be married in terms of the validity of the sacrament of marriage”. The Cardinal emphasised that this all requires suitably prepared clergy and laypersons and a greater responsibility on the part of local bishops.

“With regard to access to the sacrament of the Eucharist for divorced and remarried persons, the Report lists the main suggestions that emerged from the Synod: maintaining the current discipline; allowing greater openness in particular cases, that may not be resolved without further injustice or suffering; or rather, opting for a “penitential” approach: partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path – under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop –, and with a clear undertaking in favour of the children. This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances.”

RIGHT OF PALESTINIANS TO INDEPENDENT STATE “LONG OVERDUE”

The Bishops Conference of England and Wales issued the following Joint Statement today: Right of Palestinians to belong to an independent state “long overdue.” The statement was signed by The Lord Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Church of England’s Lead Bishop for Foreign Affairs, and by Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, Chair of the Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs:

“At a time of great uncertainty in the Middle East and North Africa, w hold that it is the reasonable aspiration of all peoples to belong to a state and enjoy the merits of full and active citizenship on their own lands. We equally believe that the right of Palestinians for such statehood has been long overdue.

“Given the benchmarks established by international law and universal legitimacy, and in light of the support offered by the Christian Church in the Holy Land, we believe Palestinians should also have a state that they can at long last call home. Such a principled recognition by our Parliament and Government will facilitate rather than hamper the negotiations that would inevitably follow between Israelis and Palestinians to agree upon the details of this new and sovereign state created next to a secure Israel.

“Peace needs a bold vision.”