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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Message of the Synod Assembly on the pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation

Vatican City, 18 October 2014 (VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the Message of the Third Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the “Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation” (5-19 October). The speakers were Cardinals Raymundo Damasceno Assis, archbishop of Aparecida, Brazil, delegate president; Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and president of the Commission for the Message and Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India. The full text of the message is published below:

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 the Sunday 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”.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Francis on World Food Day: to defeat hunger it is necessary to change the paradigm of aid and development policies


Vatican City, 17 October 2014 (VIS) – World Food Day, held on 16 October, was instituted in 1979 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in order to raise public awareness and strengthen solidarity in the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. To mark the occasion, the Holy Father sent a message to the director general of the FAO, Jose Graziano da Silva, extensive extracts of which are published below.

“Again this year, World Food Day echoes the cries of our many brothers and sisters who, in many parts of the world, do not have enough to eat each day. … Despite the progress that is being achieved in many countries, recent data continue to indicate a troubling situation, contributed to by the general reduction of public development aid”.

“The theme proposed by the FAO for this year's World Food Day – 'Family farming: feeding the world, caring for the earth' – highlights the need to begin with people, as individuals or in groups, to propose new forms and methods of management for different aspects of nutrition. Specifically, it is necessary to give greater acknowledgement of the role of the rural family, and to develop its full potential. ... Indeed, the family promotes dialogue between generations and provides the foundation for a true social integration, aside from representing that hoped-for synergy between agricultural work and sustainability; who, more than the rural family, is concerned with preserving nature for generations to come? And who, more than the rural family, has at heart cohesion between people and social groups?”

“Defending rural communities from the serious threats posed by human action or natural disasters must not merely be a strategy but rather a form of permanent action aimed at promoting their participation in decision-making, at making appropriate technologies available, and extending their use, always with respect for the natural environment. Acting in this way can alter the methods of international cooperation and aid for the hungry and malnourished. Never more than in this moment has the world needed unity between people and among nations to overcome the divisions that exist and the conflicts in progress, and above all to seek concrete ways out of a crisis that is global, but the burden of which falls mostly on the poor. … Think of the men and women, of every age and condition, who are victims of bloody conflicts and their consequent destruction and misery, the lack of housing, medical care and education, who lose every hope of a dignified life. We have an obligation towards these people, of solidarity and sharing”.

“To defeat hunger, it is not enough to meet the needs of those who are unfortunate or to help through aid and donations those who live in situations of emergency. It is necessary, instead, to change the paradigm of aid and development policies … It is also necessary to change how we understand work, economic aims and activity, food production and the protection of the environment. This is perhaps the only possibility for constructing an authentic future of peace, threatened nowadays by insecurity in relation to food”.

“The Catholic Church, on her part, while pursuing her charitable activities in the different continents, remains available to offer, enlighten and accompany both the elaboration of policies and their concrete implementation, aware that faith becomes visible by putting into practice God's plan for the human family and for the world through that profound and real fraternity that is not exclusive to Christians, but that includes all peoples”.

Pope's message to the Italian Catholic University Federation


Vatican City, 17 October 2014 (VIS) – Pope Francis has sent a message to the Italian Catholic University Federation (FUCI), which is preparing to hold an extraordinary national conference in Arezzo, Italy, devoted to Pope Paul VI, who was the Central Assistant of the institution from 1925 and 1933, and who will be proclaimed blessed next Sunday.

The Holy Father assures the participants of his spiritual closeness and accompanies them in their work with three words, the first of which is “studium”. “The essence of university life is found in study, in the effort and patience of thought that reveals the importance to humanity of truth, goodness and beauty. ... Do not be satisfied with partial truths or reassuring illusions, but welcome an increasingly full comprehension of reality in your study. Doing this requires the humility to listen, and a far-sighted vision”.

The second word is “research”, which along with dialogue is at the basis of the FUCI's study method. The Pope continues, “The FUCI must always experience the humility of research, that attitude of silently accepting the unknown, the other, and of showing openness and willingness to walk alongside all those who are inspired by a restless yearning for the Truth, believers and non-believers, outsiders and marginalised. Research challenges itself continually, becoming an encounter with mystery and opening up to faith: research makes the encounter between faith, reason and science possible, enabling a harmonious dialogue between them. … By this method of research it is possible to attain an ambitious objective: to repair the fracture between the Gospel and contemporary life through the style of cultural mediation, an itinerant mediation that, without denying cultural differences – instead, recognising their value – becomes the focus of positive planning”.

The third and final word is “frontier”. “The university is a frontier that awaits you, a periphery where the existential poverty of humanity can be received and cured. Poverty in relations, in human growth, tend to fill minds without leading to the creation of a shared plan for society, a common aim, sincere fraternity. Always be sure to encounter the other, to be receptive to the 'scent' of the people of today, to be imbued with their joys and hopes, their sadness and their anguish. Do not set up barriers that, intended to defend the frontier, preclude an encounter with the Lord. … In today's culture, in particular, we need to stand alongside everyone. You will be able to overcome the clash between peoples only if you succeed in nurturing a culture of encounter and fraternity”.

Benedict XVI to attend the beatification of Paul VI


Vatican City, 17 October 2014 (VIS) – Benedict XVI will attend the beatification of Paul VI in St. Peter's Square this Sunday, according to the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J. The Pope emeritus was made a cardinal by the new blessed, and the ceremony will be attended by another two cardinals created by the pontiff, author of “Populorum Progressio”: Paulo Evaristo Arns, archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and William Wakefield Baum, major penitentiary emeritus.

A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present the figure of the new blessed and his relevance to the contemporary Church. The speakers were Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops; Fr. Pierantonio Lanzoni, episcopal delegate for the promotion of the memory of Paul VI in the diocese of Brescia, where the pontiff was born in the town of Concesio in 1897; Fr. Antonio Marrazzo, C.SS.R., postulator of the cause for beatification and Fr. Davide Milani, spokesperson for the diocese of Milan, where Cardinal Montini was archbishop between 1954 and 1963. This afternoon, Cardinal Paul Poupard, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Culture and Fr. Angelo Maffeis, president of the Paul VI Institute in Brescia, will speak on Vatican Radio, accompanied by Fausto Montini, Paul VI's nephew.

Thousands of pilgrims will attend the beatification and the events linked to it, the first of which will take place tomorrow, Saturday 18, in the Roman Basilica of the Twelve Apostles, when Cardinal Angelo Scola, current archbishop of Milan, will preside at Vespers. At 10.30 a.m. on Sunday, in St. Peter's Square, the mass of beatification will be celebrated by Pope Francis and at 9.30 a.m. on Monday 20, in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, Cardinal Angelo Scola will celebrate a mass of thanksgiving for the faithful of the dioceses of Milan and Brescia.

Audiences


Vatican City, 17 October 2014 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, president of the Department for External Ecclesiastical Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow;

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops;

- His Beatitude Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans;

- Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect emeritus of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Twelfth General Congregation: evaluation and suggestions based on the post-discussion report


Vatican City, 16 October 2014 (VIS) – The twelfth General Congregation included the presentation, in the Assembly, of the Reports of the ten Small Groups, divided according to language: two in French, three in English, three in Italian and two in Spanish. In general, the Small Groups presented both an evaluation of the “Relatio post disceptationem” (RPD), a provisional document published at the midway point during the Synod, as well as proposals to incorporate in the “Relatio Synodi” (RS), the definitive and conclusive document of the Assembly.

Firstly, some perplexity was voiced regarding to the publication, although legitimate, of the RPD since, it was said, this is a working document that does not express an opinion shared univocally by all the Synod Fathers. Therefore, after expressing their appreciation of the work involved in drawing up the text and regarding its structure, the Small Groups presented their suggestions.

It was first underlined that in the RPD there is a focus on the concerns of families in crisis, without broader reference to the positive message of the Gospel of the family or to the fact that marriage as a sacrament, an indissoluble union between man and woman, retains a very current value in which many couples believe. Therefore, the hope was expressed that the RS may contain a strong message of encouragement and support for the Church and for faithful married couples.

Furthermore, it was remarked that it is essential to underline more clearly the doctrine on marriage, emphasising that it is a gift from God. It was further proposed that elements not contained in the RPD be integrated in the RS, such as the theme of adoption, expressing the hope that bureaucratic procedures be streamlined, both at national and international levels, and also the themes of biotechnology and the spread of culture via the internet, which may condition family life, as well as a note regarding the importance of policies in favour of the family.

In addition, it was said that greater attention should be paid to the presence of the elderly within families, and to families who live in conditions of extreme poverty. The grave problems of prostitution, female genital mutilation and the exploitation of minors for sexual purposes and for labour were denounced. It is important, it was said, to underline the essential role of families in evangelisation and in the transmission of faith, highlighting their missionary vocation. Overall, the aim is to offer a balanced and global idea of the “family” in a Christian sense.

With regard to difficult family situations, the Small Groups highlighted that the Church should be a welcoming home for all, in order that no-one feel refused. However, greater clarity was advocated, to avoid confusion, hesitation and euphemisms in language, regarding for example the law of gradualness, so that it does not become gradualness of the law. Various Groups, furthermore, expressed perplexity regarding the analogy made with paragraph 8 of “Lumen Gentium”, inasmuch as this could give the impression of a willingness on the part of the Church to legitimise irregular family situations, even though these may represent a phase in the itinerary towards the sacrament of marriage. Other Groups expressed their hope for a more in-depth focus on the concept of “spiritual communion”, so that it may be evaluated and eventually promoted and disseminated.

With regard to possibility of divorced and remarried persons partaking in the sacrament of the Eucharist, two main perspectives emerged: on the one hand, it was suggested that the doctrine not be modified and to remain as it is at present; on the other, to open up the possibility of communication, with an approach based on compassion and mercy, but only under certain conditions. In other cases, furthermore, it was suggested that the matter be studied by a specific interdisciplinary Commission. Greater care was suggested in relation to divorced persons who have not remarried, and who are often heroic witnesses of conjugal fidelity. At the same time, an acceleration of the procedures for acknowledging matrimonial nullity and the confirmation of validity was advocated; furthermore, it was emphasised that children are not a burden but rather a gift from God, the fruit of love between spouses.

A more “Christ-centric” orientation was required, as well as clearer emphasis of the link between the sacraments of marriage and baptism. The vision of the world must be one which passes through the lens of the Gospel, to encourage men and women to the conversion of the heart.

Furthermore, it was emphasised that, despite the impossibility of equating marriage between a man and a woman with homosexual unions, persons of this orientation must receive pastoral accompaniment and their dignity must be protected, without however implying that this may indicate a form of approval, on the part of the Church, of their orientation and way of life. With regard to the issue of polygamy, especially polygamists who convert to Catholicism and wish to partake in the sacraments, thorough study was suggested.

The Small Groups advocated broader reflection on the figure of Mary and the Holy Family, to be better promoted as a model for reference for all family units. Finally, it was asked that it be highlighted that the RS will in any case be a preparatory document for the Ordinary Synod scheduled for October 2015.


Reports of the Small Groups


Vatican City, 16 October 2014 (VIS) – The texts of the reports by the twelve Small Groups (Gallicus A and B, French; Anglicus A, B and C, English; Italicus A, B and C, Italian; Hibericus A and B, Spanish) of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, presented this morning during the twelfth General Congregation, may be consulted on the Holy See Press Office Bulletin web page, at:
http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2014/10/16/0763/03042.html


Sistine Chapel: New breath, new light


Vatican City, 16 October 2014 (VIS) – A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office during which the director of the Vatican Museums, Professor Antonio Paolucci, presented the international congress “The Sistine Chapel, twenty years on: new breath, new light”, which will take place from 30 to 31 October. The congress coincides with the twentieth anniversary of the inauguration of the Sistine Chapel by St. John Paul II following the restoration of Michelangelo's frescoes by the experts Fabrizio Mancinelli and Gianluigi Colalucci, and with the 450th anniversary of the death of celebrated artist.

During the congress, information will be given on the new air conditioning and lighting systems in the Sistine Chapel, put into effect during the last three years. Professor Paolucci explained that the great influx of visitors – more than six million each year with peaks of more than twenty thousand each day – necessitated “a radical intervention guaranteeing the circulation of air, the reduction of dust and other contaminants, temperature and humidity control and an acceptable level of carbon dioxide, factors that, in the long term, may pose a threat to the conservation of mural paintings, in this case the 2500 square metres that constitute the most important artistic anthology of the Italian Renaissance”.

A new lighting system was also necessary, to provide gentle but total illumination, non-invasive and respecting the complex iconographic, stylistic and historic reality of the Sistine Chapel. This involved no special “spotlight” on Michelangelo, but instead providing the possibility of a calm, objective and at the same time delicate observation of every detail of “this great catechism that three popes – Sixtus IV, Julius II and Paul III – wished to display along the walls and on the ceiling of the 'chapel of the world'”.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

General audience: the final destination of the People of God


Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – The final destination of the People of God was the theme of Pope Francis' catechesis during this Wednesday's general audience. The Holy Father began by recalling St. Paul's words to the Thessalonians, when with anxiety they asked what would become of them: “we will be with the Lord forever”, remarking that it was one of the most beautiful phrases of the Sacred Scripture, and inviting those present in St. Peter's Square to repeat it three times.

He went on to comment on how, in the Book of Revelation St. John, returning to the intuition of the Prophets, describes the final and definitive dimension in terms of “a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband”. And this, then, is who the Church is: she is the people of God who follow the Lord Jesus and who prepares herself, day by day, for the encounter with Him, like a bride with her groom. And it is not simply a turn of phrase: it will be a true wedding. Yes, because Christ, who made Himself man like us, and making us one with Him, by His death and resurrection, truly took us as His spouse. And this is none other than the fulfilment of the plan of communion and love, woven by God throughout history, the history of the People of God and the history of each one of us”.

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

“In the presence of this unprecedented and wonderful scene, hope cannot but be strongly confirmed in our heart”, he added, since “Christian hope is not simply a wish, a hope; for a Christian, hope is awaiting, fervently and with passion, the final and definitive fulfilment of a mystery, the mystery of God's love, in which we are reborn and which we already live. And it is awaiting someone who is about to arrive: the Lord Christ who is ever closer to us, day after day, and who comes to finally introduce us to the fullness of His communion and His peace”. Pope Francis underlined that the Church therefore has “the task of keeping hope alight and clearly visible, so that it may continue to shine as a sure sign of salvation and may illuminate for all humanity the path that leads to the encounter with the mysterious face of God”.

Pope's letter for the fifth centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila


Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a message to Bishop Jesus Garcia Burillo of Avila on the occasion of the fifth centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, whose feast day is celebrated today. In his letter, Pope Francis mentions the joy the saint often spoke of “in encountering the suffering of work and pain”, and how she affirmed that “the Gospel is not a bag of lead that trails heavily behind us, but rather a source of joy that leads the heart to God and urges us to serve our brethren”: St. Teresa emphasised the importance of cheerful perseverance and prayer. For her, contemplative prayer was “a close sharing between friends; … taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us”.

The Pope remarks that this advice is “perennially valid”: “In a culture of the temporary”, he says, “to live faithfully 'forever and ever and ever'; in a world without hope, to show the fruitfulness of an enamoured heart; and in a society with many idols, to give witness that 'only God is enough'”. A path that, the Holy Father reiterated, we cannot walk alone; we must do so together and, as the Saint said, with Christ. “Teresa of Jesus recommended three things: to love each other, to free each other, to free oneself of everything, and to aspire to true humility”.

“It is this Teresian realism”, writes the Pope, “that demands works instead of emotions, love in the place of dreams, and the realism of humble love instead of eager asceticism”. He concludes, “Let us hope that everyone may be infused by this holy impulse to travel the roads of our own time, with the Gospel in our hand and the Spirit in our heart!”.

Other Pontifical Acts


Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Bishop Antonio Fernando Brochini, C.S.S., of Jaboticabal, Brazil as bishop of Itumbiara (area 21,152, population 313,000, Catholics 244,000, priests28, permanent deacons 2, religious 26), Brazil.

- appointed Rev. Fr. Vittorio Francesco Viola, O.F.M., as bishop of Tortona (area 2,350, population 281,310, Catholics 274,640, priests 175, permanent deacons 20, religious 409), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Biella, Italy in 1965, gave his solemn vows in 1991, and was ordained a priest in 1993. He has served in a number of roles, including definitor or the Seraphic Province of Friars Minor in Umbria, custodian of the convent and the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli alla Porziuncola, guardian of the convent at St. Clare's Basilica in Assisi, head of the Liturgical Office for the region of Umbria, head of the diocesan office for Education, Schools and University in Assisi, and head of the diocesan Caritas. He was recently appointed as custodian of the protoconvent and shrine of Porziuncola. He also teaches at the St. Anselm Pontifical Athenaeum, Rome, in the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, in the Theological Institute of Assisi, and the Institute of Religious Sciences, Assisi. He succeeds Bishop Martino Canessa, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Declaration of the director of the Holy See Press Office on behalf of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops


Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – The General Secretariat of the Synod, in response to reactions and discussions following the publication of the Relatio post disceptationem, and the fact that often a value has been attributed to the document that does not correspond to its nature, reiterates that it is a working document, which summarises the interventions and debate of the first week, and is now being offered for discussion by the members of the Synod gathered in the Small Groups, in accordance with the Regulations of the Synod.

The work of the Small Groups will be presented to the Assembly in the General Congregation next Thursday morning.


Debate of the Synod Fathers following the post-discussion Report


Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – During the eleventh General Congregation the “Relatio post disceptationem” was read by the General Rapporteur, Cardinal Peter Erdo.

Immediately after, there followed a period of free discussion among the Synod Fathers. In general, the “Relatio post disceptationem” was appreciated for its capacity to photograph well the interventions that have been offered during this last week, capturing the spirit of the Assembly and highlighting acceptance and welcome as the principle theme of the works. The document, it was said, reveals the Church’s love for the family faithful to Christ, but also her capacity to be close to humanity in every moment of life, to understand that, behind the pastoral challenges, there are many people who suffer. The Synod, it was emphasised, should have the watchful gaze of the shepherd who devotes his life to his sheep, without a priori judgement.

Furthermore, to allow this Report to bring together various points of view to provide a basis for the work of the Small Groups, certain additional reflections were suggested: for example, while the Church must welcome those in difficulty, it would be useful to speak more widely about those families who remain faithful to the teachings of the Gospel, thanking them and encouraging them for the witness they offer. From the Synod it emerged more clearly that indissoluble, happy marriage, faithful for ever, is beautiful, possible and present in society, therefore avoiding a near-exclusive focus on imperfect family situations.

Other reflections involved giving more emphasis to the theme of women, their protection and their importance for the transmission of life and faith; to include consideration of the figure of grandparents within the family unit; more specific reference to the family as a “domestic Church” and the parish as a “family of families”, and to the Holy Family, an essential model for reference. In this respect, it was also suggested that the family and missionary role in proclaiming the Gospel in the world be further promoted.

It is necessary to clarify and explore more deeply the theme of “gradualness”, that may give rise to confusion. With regard to access to the sacraments for divorced and remarried persons, for instance, it was said that it is difficult to accept exceptions unless in reality they become a common rule.

It was also noted that the word “sin” is almost absent from the Relatio. The prophetic tone of Jesus’ words was also mentioned, to avoid the risk of conformity to the mentality of today’s world.

In relation to homosexuals, moreover, the need for welcome was highlighted, but with the just produced, so that the impression of a positive evaluation of such a tendency on the part of the Church is not created. The same care was advised with regard to cohabitation.
Other insights regarded the need to emphasise the importance of the sacrament of Baptism, essential for fully understanding the sacramental nature of marriage and also its character as a “ministry” in the announcement of the Gospel.

With regard to procedures for the streamlining of cases of nullity, some questions were raised regarding the proposal to entrust greater competence to the diocesan bishop, which may prove to be too great a burden, while the need for deeper and more detailed reflection was indicated in relation to cases of polygamy – especially for those who convert and wish to partake in the sacraments – and the spread of pornography, especially on the internet, which poses a real risk to family unity. Finally, in relation to openness to life on the part of couples, it is necessary to face in more detail and more decisively not only abortion, but also that of surrogacy.
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