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).
Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, has reminded the world that the Synod of Bishops on the family, wrapping up its first stage this weekend at the Vatican, is not about bishops learning what the Holy Father wants to do or change, but rather the Holy Father wanting to learn from his brother bishops how to best address the families of the world.
A second stage of the synod on the family will occur next October.
At a briefing at the Holy See Press Office held by Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi; Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and president of the Commission for the Message; Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India; and delegate president, Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, archbishop of Aparecida, Brazil, delegate president, spoke on this closing day of the Synod of Bishops, particularly the message the assembly released today and the soon to be available final report.
During his opening remarks, Father Lombardi noted the report will be finalized today, and the synod’s first phase will be drawn to a close through the Eucharist celebration tomorrow led by Pope Francis, which will include the Beatification of Pope Paul VI. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will be present.
“The Relatio is open and wants to embrace everybody,” said Cardinal Gracias of Bombay, noting “It’s balanced, and admits we don’t have all of the answers to everything.”
The head of the Asian bishops pointed out, however, that it is not the bishops who wish to discern the Holy Father’s view on, for example, administering the sacraments to the divorced and remarried, rather the reverse.
Clarifying that it is rather the Holy Father who seeks to hear his bishops’ view, he warned against thinking it’s the opposite way around.
“We need to help the Holy Father to make a decision regarding divorced and remarried couples,” he urged, saying, “So we need to pray about this.”
While the Church “must first accept and understand the changes of society,” he continued, “it must also have its own identity.”
Turning to tonight’s vote, Cardinal Ravasi said, “In my opinion, the vote of the Relatio this evening will be positive because it is the fruit of the long work of the [small] groups,” a view shared by the other cardinals present.
“I think other people and other religions are looking to the Catholic Church for a comment on the situation of the family,” added Cardinal Gracias.
From the Asian perspective, he said, “this synod has been very useful to us. The family is a central thing in our whole existence.”
“I think the objective has been achieved,” he concluded, as “we have been able to speak and form an agenda for the next Synod.”
Message of the Synod Assembly on the Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization
Here below is the message of the Synod Assembly on the pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization, released by the Vatican:
“We, Synod Fathers, gathered in Rome together with Pope Francis in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, greet all families of the different continents and in particular all who follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We admire and are grateful for the daily witness which you offer us and the world with your fidelity, faith, hope, and love.
Each of us, pastors of the Church, grew up in a family, and we come from a great variety of backgrounds and experiences. As priests and bishops we have lived alongside families who have spoken to us and shown us the saga of their joys and their difficulties.
The preparation for this synod assembly, beginning with the questionnaire sent to the Churches around the world, has given us the opportunity to listen to the experience of many families. Our dialogue during the Synod has been mutually enriching, helping us to look at the complex situations which face families today.
We offer you the words of Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me”. On his journeys along the roads of the Holy Land, Jesus would enter village houses. He continues to pass even today along the streets of our cities. In your homes there are light and shadow. Challenges often present themselves and at times even great trials. The darkness can grow deep to the point of becoming a dense shadow when evil and sin work into the heart of the family.
We recognise the great challenge to remain faithful in conjugal love. Enfeebled faith and indifference to true values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and stress that excludes reflection leave their mark on family life. There are often crises in marriage, often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another. Failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic, where the Christian choice is not obvious.
We think also of the burden imposed by life in the suffering that can arise with a child with special needs, with grave illness, in deterioration of old age, or in the death of a loved one. We admire the fidelity of so many families who endure these trials with courage, faith, and love. They see them not as a burden inflicted on them, but as something in which they themselves give, seeing the suffering Christ in the weakness of the flesh.
We recall the difficulties caused by economic systems, by the “the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” which weakens the dignity of people. We remember unemployed parents who are powerless to provide basic needs for their families, and youth who see before them days of empty expectation, who are prey to drugs and crime.
We think of so many poor families, of those who cling to boats in order to reach a shore of survival, of refugees wandering without hope in the desert, of those persecuted because of their faith and the human and spiritual values which they hold. These are stricken by the brutality of war and oppression. We remember the women who suffer violence and exploitation, victims of human trafficking, children abused by those who ought to have protected them and fostered their development, and the members of so many families who have been degraded and burdened with difficulties. “The culture of prosperity deadens us…. all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us”. We call on governments and international organizations to promote the rights of the family for the common good.
Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone. We warmly thank our pastors, lay faithful, and communities who accompany couples and families and care for their wounds.
There is also the evening light behind the windowpanes in the houses of the cities, in modest residences of suburbs and villages, and even in mere shacks, which shines out brightly, warming bodies and souls. This light—the light of a wedding story—shines from the encounter between spouses: it is a gift, a grace expressed, as the Book of Genesis says, when the two are “face to face” as equal and mutual helpers. The love of man and woman teaches us that each needs the other in order to be truly self. Each remains different from the other that opens self and is revealed in the reciprocal gift. It is this that the bride of the Song of Songs sings in her canticle: “My beloved is mine and I am his… I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine”.
This authentic encounter begins with courtship, a time of waiting and preparation. It is realized in the sacrament where God sets his seal, his presence, and grace. This path also includes sexual relationship, tenderness, intimacy, and beauty capable of lasting longer than the vigour and freshness of youth. Such love, of its nature, strives to be forever to the point of laying down one’s life for the beloved. In this light conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.
This love spreads through fertility and generativity, which involves not only the procreation of children but also the gift of divine life in baptism, their catechesis, and their education. It includes the capacity to offer life, affection, and values—an experience possible even for those who have not been able to bear children. Families who live this light-filled adventure become a sign for all, especially for young people.
This journey is sometimes a mountainous trek with hardships and falls. God is always there to accompany us. The family experiences his presence in affection and dialogue between husband and wife, parents and children, sisters and brothers. They embrace him in family prayer and listening to the Word of God—a small, daily oasis of the spirit. They discover him every day as they educate their children in the faith and in the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel, a life of holiness. Grandparents also share in this task with great affection and dedication. The family is thus an authentic domestic Church that expands to become the family of families which is the ecclesial community. Christian spouses are called to become teachers of faith and of love for young couples as well.
Another expression of fraternal communion is charity, giving, nearness to those who are last, marginalized, poor, lonely, sick, strangers, and families in crisis, aware of the Lord’s word, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. It is a gift of goods, of fellowship, of love and mercy, and also a witness to the truth, to light, and to the meaning of life.
The high point which sums up all the threads of communion with God and neighbor is theSunday Eucharist when the family and the whole Church sits at table with the Lord. He gives himself to all of us, pilgrims through history towards the goal of the final encounter when “Christ is all and in all”. In the first stage of our Synod itinerary, therefore, we have reflected on how to accompany those who have been divorced and remarried and on their participation in the sacraments.
We Synod Fathers ask you walk with us towards the next Synod. The presence of the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their modest home hovers over you. United to the Family of Nazareth, we raise to the Father of all our petition for the families of the world:
Father, grant to all families the presence of strong and wise spouses who may be the source of a free and united family.
Father, grant that parents may have a home in which to live in peace with their families.
Father, grant that children may be a sign of trust and hope and that young people may have the courage to forge life-long, faithful commitments.
Father, grant to all that they may be able to earn bread with their hands, that they may enjoy serenity of spirit and that they may keep aflame the torch of faith even in periods of darkness.
Father, grant that we may all see flourish a Church that is ever more faithful and credible, a just and humane city, a world that loves truth, justice and mercy”.
The synod’s final report, released Saturday, presents substantial changes with respect to the much discussed midterm report, especially regarding homosexual persons and the divorced and remarried.
The final report was voted on, paragraph by paragraph, by the synod fathers; and, by Pope Francis’ choice, the result of each poll has been publicized, thus showing a glimpse into the synod fathers’ thought.
Though all the paragraphs gained a majority of votes, not all of them reached the super-majority of two-thirds, which is required for official approval.
With 181 voting synod fathers (out of 193), a simple majority is 93, while the super-majority is reached at 123 votes.
Speaking with journalists during a press briefing Oct. 18, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, commented that in light of preparations for the 2015 synod, the paragraphs that failed to gain official approval “cannot be considered as dismissed, but primarily as paragraphs that are not mature enough to gain a wide consensus of the assembly.”
An overall glance at the final report
Like the midterm report, the final report is divided in three parts, titled: “Listening, context, and challenges of the family”; “the glance to Christ: the Gospel of the Family”; and “The confrontation: pastoral perspectives.”
The 62 paragraphs of the document are filled with quotes from the Sacred Scriptures, the lack of which in the midterm report was lamented by most of the small groups.
Another outcome of the small groups’ suggestions is the frequent reference to the positive testimonies Christian families can give in contemporary society.
The strong stance against international organizations that bind financial aid to the introduction of homosexual rights has been clarified and emphasized in a separate paragraph, while it was included in a wider paragraph in the midterm report.
At a first glance, all the concerns expressed by the small groups have been taken in consideration.
The divorced and remarried: pastoral consideration, points of clarification
The paragraphs on the divorced and remarried and on homosexual persons having been the most controversial of the midterm report, the paragraphs on those issues have been slightly modified, though they still failed to meet a wide consensus.
Regarding the divorced and remarried, almost all the synod fathers agreed that “pastoral care of charity and mercy tends to the recovery of persons and relations,” and that “every family must be listened with respect and love.”
The consensus is slightly lower when the document stresses that “the synod fathers urge new pastoral paths, that may start from the effective reality of families’ fragility, being conscious that these fragilities are endured with suffering than chosen with full freedom.”
There is even less consensus when the final report speaks about reforming the procedures for the declaration of nullity of marriages.
In contrast, a paragraph stating that those who are divorced without having remarried, who “often testify to the faithfulness of marriage” should “be encouraged in finding in the Eucharist the food which can sustain them.”
The report however states that “a particular discernment” must be put in action for a pastoral accompaniment of separated, divorced, abandoned; focuses on the situation of those who separate because of domestic violence; and underscores that divorced and remarried must not feel “discriminated” against, and that their participation in the community “must be promoted” since “taking care of them is not for the Christian community a weakening in faith and in the testimony to the indissolubility of the marriage.”
The paragraphs on access to Communion for the divorced and remarried (52 and 53) did not gain a supermajority among the synod fathers.
Also, one paragraph concerning homosexual couples did not gain the needed supermajority: paragraph 55 describes the situation of families “having within them persons with a homosexual orientation.” Considered vague, it received only 118 yes votes.
The following paragraph, 56, condemned the linking of international financial aid to the establishment of same-sex marriage, did receive a supermajority.
Synod Fathers all agree: more education is needed
There is however only one paragraph — the second one — that reached unanimity among the synod fathers.
“Despite the many signals of crisis of the institution of the family in the diverse contexts of the ‘global village’, the wish for a family is still alive, especially among young people, and this motivates the Church, expert in humanity and faithful to her mission, to tirelessly and with profound conviction announce the ‘Gospel of the family’,” paragraph two states, in part.
The final report provides largely the same view of the current situation of the family as did the midterm report, but it also notes positive testimonies of the family, and the role of grandparents.
The final report also addresses the importance of the affective life: “the individualistic danger and the risk of living selfishly are relevant. The Church’s challenge is to help couples in the maturation of their emotional dimension and in the affective development through the promotion of dialogue, of virtue, and of trust in the merciful love of God.”
In general, the paragraphs based on Sacred Scriptures and providing quotes of Magisterial documents gained a wide consensus among the fathers.
The final report also emphasized the need for a positive reception of Humanae vitae, Paul VI’s encyclical on regulation of birth, which highlighted many positive aspects of family life and reaffirmed the doctrine of the Church.
Education has always been a primary challenge, as has been stressed since the publication of the synod’s working document, and this is why the two final paragraphs of the final statement focus on the issue.
The “educative challenge” is one of “the fundamental challenges of families,” and the Church “supports families, starting from the Christian initiation, through welcoming communities.”
“The Church is requested to support parents in their educative commitment, accompanying babies, children, and adolescents in their growth through personalized paths able to introduce them to the full sense of life and arise choices and responsibility, lived in the light of Gospel.”
Toward the 2015 synod
The final report values more the experience of Christian families than did the midterm report, and put in action many suggested changes.
Yet, it cannot be considered a definitive document: the final report will function as a “working document” for the 2015 Synod of Bishops, which is considered the second part of unique synodal path on the family.
Only after that will the pope issue a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, which will shed light on how the Church is called to face the challenges of the family today.
Pope Francis’ address at the conclusion of the Synod on the Family, delivered Saturday, was responded to with a four-minute standing ovation on the part of the bishops attending the Vatican meeting.
In the Oct. 18 speech, the Pope thanked the bishops for their efforts, and noted the various temptations that can arise in such a synod setting. He encouraged the bishops to live in the tension, saying that “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 parrhesia. 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).”
In conclusion, looking forward to the 2015 synod, which will also be on the family, Pope Francis said, “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.”
Find below the full text of Pope Francis’ address, according to the provisional translation provided by Vatican Radio:
Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,
With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.
From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.
I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!
I can happily say that — with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality — we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”
And it has been “a journey” — 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 ardour. 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 goodness [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 fidei” [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…
Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted — and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) — His disciples should not expect better treatment.
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 parrhesia. 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: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.
Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – 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.
And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.
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.
His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which 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. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it… that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”
So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. 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” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).
Dear brothers and sisters, 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.
One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].
May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!
[The Te Deum was sung, and Benediction given.]
Thank you, and rest well, eh?
During a briefing at the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Msgr. Paul Pontier, and Spanish laywoman llva Myriam Hoyos Castaneda spoke on the continuing work of the Synod of Bishops.
Cardinal Marx noted that the debate was “intense,” but “overall there was a desire to find a common road.”
During his opening remarks, Father Lombardi said that as the end of the synod approaches, a final report will be released tomorrow.
“Individual situations are to be taken seriously, not everything is in black and white,” said Cardinal Marx.
ZENIT asked the German prelate whether it is feasible to reach a comprehensive document including the vast discussions over the course of the week. “As you said, not everything can be found in a final document,” he said, while noting that the grand majority of the discussions will be.
Noting that while it is impossible to incorporate everything, he underscored, the “need to bring everything to a common denominator, to respect all views.”
The prelate continued, “We have a procession,” that goes three steps forward and two steps… No it’s better, three steps forward and two backward, or two steps forward and one step backward, this is the procession that we have in Germany.”
“You always go on, even if it’s only [one] step,” he summarized.
In addition, Cardinal Marx said: “We must stand next to people, who have particular circumstances;” noting that “exclusion is not part of the language of the church.”
“We should find a different language,” he concluded, “not one of black and white,” because “human problems are much more complex.”