Synod full text of Fifth General Congregation, President Cardinal Assis’ introduction and Mrs. Toure’s testimony

Introduction by the President Delegate, Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis

Testimony of Mrs. Jeannette Toure (Ivory Coast)

Held in the Synod Hall in the Vatican was the Fifth General Congregation of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, for the continuation of the general debate, which is following a thematic order in correspondence with the Parts and chapters of the Instrumentum laboris.

This thematic session was focused on chapter 2 of Part II “Pastoral Challenges on the Family and regards four topics: a) The Crisis of Faith and Family Life; b) Critical Internal Situations of the Family; c) Outside Pressures on the Family; d) Some Particular Situations.

The works opened with a brief presentation by the rotating President Delegate, Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, Archbishop of Aparecida, Brazil, who introduced the testimony of Mrs. Jeannette TOURE, National President of the Catholic Women’s Association of the Ivory Coast {AFEC] (Ivory Coast), married to a Muslim, present at the Synod as Auditor.

INTRODUCTION OF THE PRESIDENT DELEGATE, CARDINAL RAYMUNDO DAMASCENO ASSIS

This General Congregation will be dedicated to the topic of the Pastoral Challenges on the Family, argument presented in Part II of the Instrumentum laboris. In particular, attention will be focused on chapter 2, which is concerned with four well-defined topics.
In the first place, the crisis of faith and family life (62-63). In a Church that the Holy Father did not hesitate to compare with a “field hospital after a battle” ((La Civilta Cattolica, August 2013), we want to go out as Pastors to encounter the many families in crisis to give an answer inspired by the Gospel of mercy.
In the second place, we cannot ignore the many critical situations of family life, due be it to internal or external factors. The Instrumentum laboris lists among the internal: the difficulty of relation and communication among members of the family (n. 64), between spouses, between parents and children and between siblings; fragmentation and disintegration (n. 65), caused either by the divorce or separation of the spouses, or be it by other critical situations, which go from the family reality extended with multiple invasive relations to de facto unions, and so many other situations that call for our attention and pastoral charity; the different forms of violence and abuse at the psychological, physical and sexual level in detriment of women and above all of children, which strongly interpellate not only the society by also the Church herself (nn. 68-69). To all these realities, the Church wishes to give an answer adequate to today’s times.
In the third place, we do not want the joy of living to be extinguished by the lack of respect and violence, (cf. EG 52) caused by those external pressures on the family, such as the incidence of labor activity on the family (70-71), the migratory phenomenon (72), poverty and the struggle for survival (73) consumerism and individualism (74), the counter-testimonies in the Church (75).
Finally, we cannot forget other particular situations, referred to in the Instrumentum laboris, among which is the weight of social expectations on the individual (76), the impact of wars (77); disparity of worship (78) and other realities (79).
Attentive to the signs of the times, we wish to listen to the testimony of Mrs. Jeannette TOURE, National President of the Catholic Women’s Association in the Ivory Coast. In fact from Africa, this great continent, in which a significant part of the People of God lives, the voice of the poor is raised, and we, guided by the Gospel of mercy and love for the other, want to listen to the cry of those who seek justice.

Mrs. Jeannette Toure’s Testimony (Ivory Coast)

Eminences, Excellences,
Reverend Fathers, Reverend Sisters,
Dear Friends Auditors of the 3rdExtraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops,

It is obvious for us Christians to say that it is God who conceived the idea of the family and that in so doing, He gave us several principles in His word concerning its structure, as well as the role that each member must have. Therefore, it seems to me reasonable to think that He is the best placed to show us how all families must function in order to avoid the precipices that destroy them. Nevertheless, a question merits our attention.
What is the family, better, can one still speak of the family in the singular?
The question merits being posed when one knows that in our days, the modern family is knocked by the increase of divorces, the failure of marriages, the increasing number of children born outside marriage. What to say, when one sees around one the extreme diversity of family models: one-parent families, re-constituted families, families with successive fidelities, shattered families, communities of families, homosexual families … Is this the family according to God’s heart?
In truth, the family as God willed and loved it is the only one that should be: “man and woman He created them, to be fruitful and fill the earth and be happy” (Genesis 1:27). And with this title, the family must be image and likeness of God wherever it is. It must be so, in its surroundings, bearer of the Good News of Salvation by its witness of life. For us, in as much as mixed couples, this topic: “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization,” isthat much more important that it be applied to our reality: how can a man, a Muslim, and a woman, a Catholic Christian, who for more than 52 years have loved one another, and who continue to love each other still today, be witnesses of the Gospel for their children, for their surroundings, for their friends, for their different religious communities?
We wish our witness of life to be the contribution to this topic: 52 years of common life in tolerance, mutual respect of our beliefs, in supporting one another, in the Christian education of our children (who are all baptized in the Catholic Church with the agreement of my husband), all this while accepting the joys received from the Lord and while keeping much hope at the heart of difficulties. Born of this union are five children and six grandchildren to whom we have inculcated our values of respect of the other in difference and to whom we have given the faith.
Thanks to my husband, who accepted that, all our children be Catholics. They also in their turn try to be bearers of the Good News around them. The family, particularly the African family, has the duty to witness its faith in its milieu of life and in its surroundings. It is also a challenge when one knows the weight of our traditions. Our choices and decisions must help our surroundings to know better, to accept and to love God.
In face of models that do not always shine, we must affirm that there is an optimum to seek for the happiness of each and all and that the family, being the place of considerable expectation, we see that our world is in need of models on the plane of the family as well as in many other areas. Therefore, in face of all these threats that weigh heavily on the family, it seems urgent to me that families return to their mission to know that:

— The family is the place where one can be oneself, take off one’s mask without being judged; the place where one learns to have confidence in oneself thanks to the admiring and at the same time lucid look that parents have for their offspring. It is the place where one lives love daily, where one escapes from loneliness, where one learns to share, to grow fully.

— The family is the place where social life is learned in gentleness and where one has an apprenticeship of differences; the place where one transmits values. Because the family must foster communication between its members, to become the place where love and paternal tenderness are expressed, in fact, must be expressed.

— You certainly know that the building of a family needs the generous engagement of spouses in this wonderful adventure, a challenge launched to the times by the decision to live in fidelity, the same with love, without looking back and, using the means to remain faithful, ceasing to dream of one’s own growth and comfort.

— Likewise, you will note that families whose contours are imprecise, where each one does what he wants and thinks first of himself, do not go far, exactly as totalitarian families, namely, families that pretend to suffice unto themselves.
In truth, for today’s families, it is a question of engaging at the service of the city, of entering into associations, of entering into relation with God. And that is the whole challenge that we have to highlight all together.

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