Nina Pham, a Dallas nurse who has been battling Ebola after treating a patient in Texas, has now been declared free of the disease, and gave thanks to God and all those who have prayed for her in recent weeks.
“I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today,” Pham said in a press conference Oct. 24. “I would first and foremost like to thank God, my family and friends. Throughout this ordeal, I have put my trust in God and my medical team.”
Pham thanked everyone who had been involved in her care, both in Texas and Maryland. She offered special gratitude to Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly for donating plasma, calling it a “selfless act.”
“I believe in the power of prayer because I know so many people all over the world have been praying for me,” she continued. “I join you in prayer now for the recovery of others.”
The 26-year-old nurse, described by friends as a devout Catholic, is believed to have contracted Ebola while caring for a Thomas Eric Duncan, a patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Duncan passed away from Ebola Oct. 8.
Pham was transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland on Oct. 16. Numerous tests have now shown her to be Ebola free, and she will return to Texas to continue regaining strength.
Ebola continues to devastate parts of West Africa. The World Health Organization said that nearly 5,000 deaths had been reported as of Oct. 19, but the true numbers could be as high as 15,000.
Pham’s fellow nurse, Amber Vinson, had also contracted Ebola after caring for Duncan. Vinson is currently being treated. Her family said Oct. 22 that she had tested free of the disease.
Pope Francis on Thursday appointed a new Abbot of Montecassino — the first monastery built by St. Benedict — and at the same time reduced the territory for which the new abbot is responsible.
“The Monastic Community warmly welcomes Father Donato Ogliari as 192nd Ordinary Abbot of the territorial Abbey of Montecassino,” the abbey posted on Twitter Oct. 23.
Abbot Ogliari, O.S.B., who is 57, was professed as a member of the Consolata Missionaries in 1978, and ordained a priest of that institute in 1982. He later transferred to the Order of Saint Benedict, and was solemnly professed there in 1992. Before his appointment as Abbot of Montecassino, Abbot Ogliari had been abbot of Santa Maria della Scala Monastery in Noci, Italy.
The Territorial Abbey of Montecassino had been vacant since June 2013, when Abbot Pietro Vittorelli resigned.
Montecassino is one of the few remaining “territorial abbeys” in the world. This means that the abbey is independent of a diocese, and is in fact its own particular church.
The Code of Canon Law defines a territorial abbacy as “a certain portion of the people of God which is defined territorially and whose care, due to special circumstances, is entrusted to some prelate or abbot who governs it as its proper pastor just like a diocesan bishop.”
While they were more common in the past, a 1976 motu proprio of Bl. Paul VI, Catholica ecclesia, moved toward reordering territorial abbeys so that monks might focus on their proper charism rather than also being responsible for a portion of the people of God.
Many were suppressed, and only 11 remain. There are six in Italy, two in Switzerland, one in Hungary, and one in Austria. There is also one in North Korea, Tokwon, though it has been vacant since its abbot died in 1950.
The U.S. once had a territorial abbey: Belmont Abbey, in North Carolina. The abbey had been founded in 1876, and in 1910 was given the status of territorial abbey, with jurisdiction over the parishes in eight North Carolina counties. Belmont’s territory was reduced twice, in 1944 and 1960, to the point that it retained jurisdiction over one parish. One year after Catholica ecclesia was issued, the territorial abbacy was suppressed and its territory transferred to the Diocese of Charlotte, though it remains an abbey.
Pope Francis’ Oct. 23 decision applied Catholica ecclesia to Montecassino.
Prior to the reorganization, it had been responsible for a territory of 227 square miles, including 53 parishes, 37 priests, 50 women religious, a number of seminarians, and nearly 79,000 faithful total.
Though Montecassino retains the status of territorial abbey, Abbot Ogliari will no longer be responsible for the care of so many faithful.
They have now been transferred to the Diocese of Sora-Aquino-Pontecorvo, which had previously been responsible for 551 square miles and included 91 parishes, 83 diocesan priests, and 175 women religious.
The diocese will now be known as Sora-Cassino-Aquino-Pontecorvo, according to Vatican Radio.
“To the entire diocesan community of Sora-Cassino-Aquino-Pontecorvo I extend my cordial greetings and I entrust my deep trepidation of soul,” Bishop Gerardo Antonazzao wrote to his newly-enlarged diocese Oct. 23, according to a Catholic News Agency report.
“I invite all to prayer for one another, and in a particular way for my episcopal service, invested in an expanded pastoral responsibility. Along with the charity of prayer and of fraternal friendship of the entire diocesan community, I am comforted by the trust accorded by the Holy Father.”
At the consistory on the Middle East, patriarchs gathered to discuss the threats facing local Christians, and focused on the key task of returning displaced families to their homes.
“We are suffering … we feel that we are isolated and that we are forgotten,” Louis Raphael I Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, told CNA after the Oct. 20 consistory.
“I asked the pope to send a message to Christians, to encourage them to stay home, to keep their hope, and maybe also to visit displaced families to encourage them to stay and not to leave their homes, and to have patience to persevere.”
The Syrian civil war has forced 3 million Syrians, of all religions, to become refugees, with an additional 6.5 million internally displaced. And in Iraq, since the rise of the Islamic State, there are more than 1.8 million internally displaced persons.
Cardinals and patriarchs from the Middle East, together with top officials of the Secretariat of State and interested dicasteries attended the consistory with Pope Francis at the Vatican.
Initially set in order to advance the causes of canonization for two blesseds, the consistory’s schedule was expanded by Pope Francis who wanted to dedicate it to discussion surrounding the plight of Christians in the Middle East, taking advantage of the presence of Middle Eastern patriarchs in Rome on the heels of the synod.
Patriarch Sako said that what representatives from the Middle East most want from the international community is further aid in gaining back the Christian towns in Iraq’s Nineveh province from the Islamic State so that displaced families can go home and “continue their life as it was before.”
Although multiple countries have launched airstrikes against the Islamic State, Patriarch Sako explained that it is not enough, and would like to see “something on the ground” that will help regain the fallen cities.
“We know that just bombing and killing people is not a solution,” he said. “But also, when they are killing innocent people and destroying houses” there needs to be a military action.
In the long run, Patriarch Sako said, it is necessary “to destroy this kind of ideology with a new culture, new programs of religious instruction; and also, religious leaders should refuse this fundamentalism.”
He also extended a personal invitation to the Pope to visit Iraq in order to “encourage Christians and Muslims to live together, and also to push forward the culture of dialogue and peace, and to resolve problems with negotiations.”
Another participant in the consistory, Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, told CNA Oct. 20 that at this moment, Christian in the Middle East “are facing a very, very critical phase in their history.”
One of their great concerns, he said, is that Christians and other persecuted minorities have no means of defending themselves against Islamist militants, and so they are completely dependent upon military force exercised by their countries’ governments and by the international community.
Patriarch Younan said, “We are calling again on the powers of this world, international societies, to be faithful to the principles of the Charter of Human Rights from 1948: that we have the right to live as true citizens in dignity and freedom.”
Many families are scattered or lost, he said, and are living under “precarious conditions” in tents at makeshift camps, facing terrorism and the loss of their homes.
“These are our challenges,” Patriarch Younan explained, saying that in the consistory he and the other patriarchs made sure Pope Francis “understood the sum of all our drama,” particularly the fact that at this moment “we don’t know what to do to respond to (our people’s) questions — if they can return to their homes or not.”
Yostinos Boulos Safar, who is the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Zahle and Bekaa, in Lebanon, attended both the Synod on the Family and the following consistory as an ecumenical observer.
Speaking to CNA Oct. 17, he expressed his hope that the consistory would result in concrete solutions for the challenges present in the Middle East.
His own nation — whose population in 2011 was slightly more than 4 million — has since then become home to well over 1 million Syrian refugees.
Although it’s not possible to expect anything immediate, he said, “just to meet is something important. Just to talk is starting to resolve the problems.”
When a Texas family feared to have contracted the Ebola virus was recently placed under quarantine, they found refuge from Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, who offered them shelter in the name of Christ.
“I was asked by reporters this morning why I said yes to the request from Mayor Mike Rawlings and Judge Clay Jenkins to offer housing for Ms. Troh and her family,” stated Bishop Farrell in an October 20 blog post, saying that he asked himself “what would Jesus do?”
“I knew that we had to help. Certainly, the Catholic Church has a long period of helping those in need, and Ms. Troh and her family were and remain in need.”
Although reporters questioned why the diocese would offer refuge to non-Catholics, Bishop Farrell explained that “we don’t help because someone is Catholic, we help because we are Catholic and that is what we are called to do.”
Ms. Louis Troh was the fiancée of Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan, who died from the outbreak earlier this month. Duncan, who had arrived in the U.S. from Liberia, was being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where two nurses who had cared for him were then reported to be infected with Ebola.
Troh, along with her teenage son and two adult nephews, was placed in a 21-day quarantine. After having remained symptom free throughout the designated time period, officials have now determined that they have not contracted the virus.
City officials Mayor Mike Rawlings and Judge Clay Jenkins had asked for the assistance of Bishop Farrell in securing a safe and secret location for Troh and her family’s quarantine.
Bishop Farrell said that he did “pause to think of all the possibilities,” but soon after offered the Conference and Formation Center in Oak Cliff for their use. Troh and her family stayed in a remote area on the grounds, and are now free from the quarantine period.
Because those under quarantine did not develop Ebola, the property will not need to be professionally decontaminated, the bishop told reporters at an Oct. 20 press conference, although the center will be cleaned.
In his blog post, Bishop Farrell apologized for any inconvenience that might have occurred during the quarantine to people who had planned events or retreats at the center.
“I hope you will understand that this was an emergency humanitarian aid situation that had to take priority,” he stated, offering special gratitude to Deacon Jessie Olivarez who is helping clean the center so it can fully resume its regular functioning operation.
“I visited and prayed with Ms. Troh this morning and she expressed her profound gratitude to the diocese for providing shelter for her family,” the Dallas bishop said, according to a Catholic News Agency report.
He asked that the faithful “continue to pray for her and her family as they continue to mourn the loss of Mr. Duncan and prepare to find a permanent residence and move on with their lives.”
As the church continues to reflect on the pastoral needs of the family following the recent Synod of Bishops, there has emerged the need for marriage formation lasting well beyond the day a husband and wife take their vows.
Marriage preparation was one of many topics on the agenda for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which concluded Oct. 19, with the synod fathers acknowledging the importance of improving marriage formation.
“There is a real need for the creation of a standard for the preparation and formation for marriage,” said John Noronha, a PhD candidate in bioethics at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, in an email interview with CNA Oct. 2.
John and his wife Ashley, both known for having hosted the EWTN series “Vatican Report’s Art & Faith,” moved to Rome shortly after their marriage in 2008.
He noted how the marriage preparation which is currently available “can range from non-existent to substantially formative,” depending on one’s diocese or parish. “Since the Church is universal there needs to be uniformity,” he said, “but also using the wisdom of subsidiarity and solidarity, certain fundamental norms and guidelines ought to be developed and followed to ensure that the couple is in fact ready, informed and fully prepared for the important and sacred sacrament of marriage.”
“The church has the spiritual and practical wisdom, but just needs to find ways to reach out to families to share it.”
“Married couples and those considering marriage,” Ashley said in the same interview, “need support from the local church to offer guidance in how to form strong families that are built on sharing the love of the Lord with each other and their local communities.”
While acknowledging that some churches offer instruction to couples in the lead up to their marriage, she stressed that this “support should continue on after a man and woman take their vows.”
“The church can nurture family life by teaching a Catholic family how to tie in their domestic culture with that of their local parish and the universal church,” Ashley continued. She gave an example of a local Church which offered programs in “parenting, family counseling, and teen mentoring,” which resulted in an increase in parish activity “because people were able to build a strong parish life that then trickled down into how they formed their families.”
She also cited various grassroots initiatives which parishes can provide, including as “bible studies for couples and families, even simply reading church documents together that explore family issues, like the Catechism, Theology of the Body, Familiaris Consortio and Mulieris Dignatatem.”
“By reading and sharing the Gospel and exploring the wisdom of the church together,” Ashley continued, “married couples can bond more deeply in the love of Christ and enter deeper into the sacramental mystery of their commitment. Authentic Catholic culture will bloom in a family when it is nurtured and celebrated in tangible ways by the local church.”
Another element of preparation, said John, “should be to help the couple prepare for the role of being faithful and practicing Catholic parents.”
“For new parents it wouldn’t be easy to make a promise at their child’s baptism to bring up the child in the faith of the Church, if the parents do not know or haven’t practiced the faith after their wedding day.”
John stressed the importance of families being able to find the spiritual support they need at their local parishes.
“Families should be able to get support from the local church to know where to go to tap into the treasures of the spiritual wisdom of the church and the writings of the church fathers. The local parish is a natural place where they can learn practical aspects of living together as a couple and a family and how to do that in an authentically Catholic way.”
The move from being an independent to being part of a family, John said, is “one of the most critical steps that a man and woman can take in their lifetimes.”
He expressed his hope that the synods will find “ways to explain the wisdom of the church’s teachings on the family and family life in a way that is clear, concise and solidly grounded in scripture.”
“Stronger and well-formed families mean a stronger church and a stronger moral society,” said Ashley.
“Stronger families mean that more people feel the love of Christ every day in their homes, neighborhoods, cities and countries.”
As the synod drew to a close, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, has expressed his belief that this Synod of Bishops will provide pastoral approaches to welcome Catholics back to the church.
In an interview with ZENIT before the final session, Cardinal Nichols admitted that while there were disagreements, there was no division at this Synod of Bishops on the Family.
In addition to sharing whether he is satisfied with the Synod and its message, as well as if the voices of the world’s bishops were heard, he also called for better pastoral skills to help those in difficult situations, especially through a phrase very close to the heart of the Holy Father: accompaniment.
ZENIT: In terms of what your expectation for the Synod and how you feel it’s finished, are you satisfied?
I think the message that we’ve agreed on this morning is very attractive and very positive. It really does, I think, present the invitation of the Gospel, within the reality of today’s world. I think that’s well done. Yes,
I think the whole course of the whole Synod has been conducted in a great spirit, a great spirit, of openness which we comes with disagreement but doesn’t in any way move, as some people want to suggest, toward division. There’s no division.
It’s been a very vigorous debate that we still have to finish this afternoon with our consideration of the final report.
ZENIT: Turning to the message, how would you describe it?
I think it’s lyrical. It’s attractive because it has a poetic, almost lyrical quality about it. I think many people find it appealing.
ZENIT: Do you think that majority of the prelates and bishops here feel their voice has been proportionally recognized?
My impression is exactly that. Yes, that obviously these highly sensitive issues of family and marriage and particular are issues on which the Church ponders constantly. There are bound to be different emphasis, but I think everybody’s been heard, and I think that we know that. The work goes on, because the synod is really one step in next year’s synod and in increasing discussion of all these matters in the Church.
ZENIT: In terms of some concrete ways, concrete pastoral approaches, that can help welcome back those who are divorced or remarried?
I think one of the strongest themes is Pope Francis’ phrase… the need to strengthen the skills that pastors and their assistants, those who work particularly in the field of marriage, the ability they have, the “art of accompaniment” that’s his phrase, and I think that’s a real challenge and go that goes right across the range of issues that we’ve talked about and that are mentioned in the message. So there’s that sense of wanting to reinvigorate the pastoral care that the Church can lovingly give to people, in very difficult situations.
“By our apostolic authority we declare that the Venerable Servant of God Paul VI, Pope, shall henceforth be called Blessed…”
With these words, Pope Francis beatified Paul VI at the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops. The celebration comes at the conclusion of a two week meeting where the Pope, along with Bishops and Cardinals from around the world, discussing the challenges of the family.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who was made a Cardinal by the newly Blessed in 1977, was present at the beatification. He was greeted warmly by Pope Francis at the start of the Mass. Benedict XVI had declared Paul VI ‘Venerable’ in December 2012.
Pope Francis wore a gold chasuble that belonged to Blessed Paul VI as well as the newly beatified’s, pastoral cross.
The Holy Father reflected on the Synod, noting that pastors and lay people worked together “in order to help today’s family walk the path of the Gospel with their gaze fixed on Jesus.”
“It has been a great experience, in which we have lived synodality and collegiality, and felt the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the church,” he said. “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.”
The pope expressed his hope that the Holy Spirit would continue to “guide the journey which, in the churches throughout the world, is bringing us to the Ordinary Synod of Bishops on October 2015.”
Paul VI: A Prophetic Witness of Love
Referring to Blessed Paul VI as a “tireless apostle”, Pope Francis recalled his predecessor’s establishment of the Synod as a way of adapting to the “growing needs of our times”.
“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!” he exclaimed as the faithful applauded. “Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his church!”
During his pontificate, Blessed Paul VI led the church during the sexual revolution of the 60s. It was in that time that he wrote his famed encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (Human Life) which reaffirmed the Church’s stance on conjugal love, parenthood, and the Church’s stance on contraception. Though facing opposition from both outside and within the Church, Paul VI staunchly defended “the design established by the Creator.”
It was his humility, Pope Francis concluded, where “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.”
Pope Francis has ensured that the world will be fully aware of results of this synod on the family and has warned the world’s top Church officials against various temptations, including being too rigid, as well as too soft.
Speaking to the nearly 200 prelates gathered at the Synod of Bishops on the family’s final session Saturday afternoon, the Holy Father cautioned Synod Fathers against “a temptation to hostile inflexibility”. He also cautioned them to not fall into “destructive tendency” of being do-gooders, saying “that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them.”
The pope’s final discourse, at the conclusion of these two weeks full of debate, not only wrapped up this synod, but seemed to lay the groundwork for the second phase of the synod on the family, set to take place a year from now.
During the briefing at the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, Father Thomas Rosica, and Father Manuel Dorantes spoke on this Synod’s final outcomes.
Looking at the text of the report, it was evident that the Relatio Post Disceptionem’s seemingly “more open” language, has been dialed back a step, retaining a more middle ground.
Father Lombardi had noted that there had been some 470 proposed changes to that original released Monday.
In addition to the text itself, the Vatican has included the figures on exactly how many voted in favor and against each paragraph.
It was stressed by the Holy See Press Office director and the other spokesmen that “this is not a final document, but a reflection for the next phase of the synod,” one which can help the world’s Episcopal conferences prepare for the second phase.
“The pope wanted the text be published in full, even paragraphs that didn’t have the necessary 2/3 majority,” Father Dorantes said.
Speaking on the afternoon’s events and noting 183 Synod Fathers were present in the final session, Father Lombardi explained each prelate had “the text in their hands and voted on each number by number.”
On all but three points, there was the needed two thirds majority vote; those three points regarded access to Eucharist for the divorced and remarried and homosexuality.
Father Lombardi said, “The text is something ‘of a walk.’ There is so much terminology. To say it is ‘approved/not approved’ is not adequate.”
Father Rosica noted that it took an hour for the voting of the 62 paragraphs.
Echoing Father Lombardi’s invitation to read the pope’s discourse, Father Rosica said following this vote, the pope gave “what I would consider to be an awesome talk”, followed by an almost four-minute standing ovation in the Hall.
Summarizing and outlining some key elements of the Pope’s discourse, Father Rosica said the pope spoke about the temptations that are part of “any one of our journeys.”
“Especially when human beings and men are gathered, there are moments of desolation, moments of temptation,” he continued.
Giving examples of the temptations Pope Francis stressed, the Canadian priest said, “there’s the temptation to a hostile rigidity, which forces us to lock ourselves to the letter of the law and not allow for God to surprise us.” That temptation, he added, is present among the ‘zealous,’ ‘scrupulous,’ and ‘those who are too careful in the so-called traditionalists of today, even among those who claim to be intellectuals.’
Another temptation is somebody who ‘tries to see everything rosey,’ if you will, somebody who tries to see everything very sweet and not see the dark side of things, somebody who tries not to give into emotions, and thus has a ‘false sense of mercy, which tries to bind up war wounds without really caring for them.”
This type doesn’t go to the roots or the causes of the sickness or illness, he added, and “is the temptation of the do-gooders, of the fearful, and also of the so-called progressives and liberals.”
Another temptation is that “to transform the stone into bread. It breaks that long fast which is part of our human condition.”
Also there is the temptation to “transform bread into stones,” which then can be thrown at sinners, at “the weak,” at “the sick,” and “to put upon them ‘unbearable burdens,’ which Luke talks about in his Gospel.”
In addition, the Holy Father spoke on the temptations ‘to want to come down from the Cross, just to please people, rather than try to fulfill the will of God,” as well as that “to disregard the deposit of the faith,” “to disregard reality.”
“It was an incredible talk the pope gave, responding, in a way, to all of the issues we have been dealing with.”
In the final point of the talk, the pope’s sense of humor really showed.
“You know the Synod takes place with Peter and under Peter. The presence of the Pope is the guarantee of that unity. Then, he said, “I am the Pope and I am here.”
“So I think the point got across very well. Habemus Papem,” Father Rosica said.
More than just speaking on the temptations, the Holy Father spoke on the need to practice mercy and charity.
“It’s worth pausing at every single word” of the pope’s discourse, he concluded.
Father Rosica on the Report
Speaking on the report, Father Rosica stated, “In the name of full transparency, the whole document is being released to you. You see the voting that took place there, 470 out of the cases that were submitted and tried to be incorporated into it and this will now be available to the Episcopal conferences as a study working document in view of the second part of this synod, which takes place a year from now.”
Responding to a question, Father Rosica said, “A colleague pointed out that three of the paragraphs didn’t receive the 2/3 majority vote.”
“Just keep in mind this is not a magisterial, disciplinary document,” he said, “the Pope asked that this be made available to people to show the degree of the journey which has taken place and that which still needs to take place as a discussion document in the next year.”
“In the name of full transparency, we wanted you to see everything and to show that we still have a way to go but that we’re still on a journey together.”
“All of the topics were raised in a very fraternal and open way,” he said.
Interreligious marriage: a look at the synod from India’s While some countries face family issues such as divorce and polygamy, the synod’s Indian participants have voiced concern for interreligious marriages, which pose pastoral concerns across Asia.
“We have got this whole thing of mixed marriages, there are many marriages in India which are between (a) Catholic and somebody who is not baptized, a Hindu, a Muslim, or a Buddhist, and that is what specifically came out of India,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay told CNA Oct. 10.
While marriage between a Catholic and an unbaptized person would normally be invalid, the local ordinary can dispense from this impediment, and thus allow such a marriage to be validly contracted (canon 1086).
Cardinal Gracias, who is part of Pope Francis’ ‘council of cardinals’, explained that when faced with the difficult situations interreligious marriages can present, it’s always necessary to have a “positive pastoral approach” to the couples and families involved.
The cardinal was accompanied to the synod by Fr. Cajetan Menezes, who is director of the Bombay archdiocese’s Snehalaya Family Service Center.
Father Menezes has served as an auditor for the synod, and spoke to CNA Oct. 15 saying the topic of interreligious marriages was one of the three points he brought up when he addressed the synod fathers.
With the number of interreligious marriages on the rise across Asia, the priest said that it is an important issue, and one with which the church needs to have a “very specific pastoral care.”
“We need to reach out to them rather than look at them as problems. (They are) an opportunity to evangelize, and we need to take them on board,” he said, explaining that interfaith couples are often “ostracized by their own families because they are going against family tradition.”
“That creates more problems for them in their marriage, and that is not conducive for their marriage to grow and do well,” he observed.
Although other countries might not share the pastoral difficulties caused by interreligious marriages, Fr. Menezes observed that “this is a big issue in Asia because we are a minority,” and cited India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Japan as being countries with a high percentage of interreligious couples.
Thus there is a need to specifically address the issue and to give interreligious families more help and support, particularly in light of the challenges the couples face due to the differing traditions of their families, the priest explained.
Father Menezes said that the synod’s emphasis on welcoming and inviting those who are far from the Church or who find themselves in situations that could be problematic is also a way of embracing those who have been ostracized because of interreligious challenges.
“I think it’s the first time I noticed (them) speaking a different (kind of) language, and I think that’s a very positive influence of Pope Francis, (who) is reaching out, welcoming, and also looking at not only those who are at the center, but at the periphery,” the priest continued.
By reaching out to the marginalized, the synod fathers are making great progress in their attempt to “get everybody on board,” including members of the gay community and those who are divorced and remarried.
Cardinal Gracias, who has taken part in numerous synods before this, praised the free spirit in which discussion has taken place.
Even though each synod is free in its own way, the cardinal explained that when talking about the family “there is nothing which is taboo, nothing that you can’t speak about, no one is frightened to say ‘ok, this is a problem, we have got to face it.’”
To have differing opinions is important and essential, he said, and helps participants to reach more concrete, effective solutions.
“We have another synod next year which will be bigger (and) with more participation, and probably we will come to clearer conclusions at that particular moment of time,” the cardinal noted, but for now he is happy that “it is working well.”
Returning to the situation in India, Cardinal Gracias said that while Indians have traditionally maintained strong family ties, this is being influenced negatively by outside sources, including the film industry.
“I think that people are beginning to feel that this is not the best thing and we have got to try to reinforce the family,” he said, noting that although a zero percent breakdown rate is impossible, “it should not be 50 percent.”
However, he explained that much of a lasting family dynamic will depend on the preparation of the couple before marriage, as well as the process of accompanying them after the sacrament is contracted.
Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s homily at the Celebration of Mass for the Closing of the Synod of Bishops and the Beatification of Pope Paul VI.
* * *
We have just heard one of the most famous phrases in the entire Gospel: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt22:21).
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.
Certainly Jesus puts the stress on the second part of the phrase: “and [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 which we often feel at God’s surprises.
God is not afraid of new things! That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways. He renews us: he constantly makes us “new”. A Christian who lives the Gospel is “God’s newness” in the Church and in the world. How much God loves this “newness”!
“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.
Here is where our true strength is found; here is the leaven which makes it grow and the salt which gives flavour 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. That is why we Christians look to the future, God’s future. It is so that we can live this life to the fullest — with our feet firmly planted on the ground — and respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way.
In these days, during the extraordinary Synod of Bishops, we have seen how true this is. “Synod” means “journeying together”. And indeed pastors and lay people from every part of the world have come to Rome, bringing the voice of their particular Churches in order to help today’s families walk the path the Gospel with their gaze fixed on Jesus. It has been a great experience, in which we have 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.
For the gift of this Synod and for the constructive spirit which everyone has shown, in union with the Apostle Paul “we give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers” (1 Th 1:2). 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 which, in the Churches throughout the world, is bringing us to the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015. We have sown and we continued to sow, patiently and perseveringly, in the certainty that it is the Lord who gives growth to what we have sown (cf.1 Cor 3:6).
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” (Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Apostolica Sollicitudo).
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!
In his personal journal, 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 saviour” (P. Macchi, Paolo VI nella sua parola, Brescia, 2001, pp. 120-121). 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.
Paul VI truly “rendered to God what is God’s” by devoting his whole life to the “sacred, solemn and grave task of continuing in history and extending on earth the mission of Christ” (Homily for the Rite of Coronation: Insegnamenti I, 1963, p. 26), loving the Church and leading her so that she might be “a loving mother of the whole human family and at the same time the minister of its salvation” (Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam Suam, Prologue).