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Monday, October 6, 2014

Francis to the Synod Fathers: “Speak clearly, listen with humility, accept with an open heart”

Vatican City, 6 October 2014 (VIS) – This morning, in the presence of the Holy Father, the First General Congregation of the Synod of Bishops on “Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of new evangelisation” took place in the Synod Hall. The Pope greeted the Synod Fathers and all the collaborators in the Synod – the relators, consultors, translators and all those “who have worked with dedication, patience and competence, for long months, reading and working on the themes, texts and the work of this Extraordinary General Assembly”.

Today I also thank you, dear cardinals, patriarchs, bishops, priests, men and women religious and laypersons for your presence and your participation that enriches the works and the spirit of collegiality and synodality for the good of the Church and families. … You bring the voice of the particular Churches, gathered at the level of the local Churches through the Episcopal Conferences. The universal Church and the particular Churches are of divine institution; the local Churches, understood in this way, are of human institution. You will bring this voice in synodality. It is a great responsibility: bring the reality and problems of the Churches to help them to walk the path of the Gospel of the family”.

“A general basic condition is this: speak clearly. Let no one say, 'this can't be said, they will think this or that about me'. Everything we feel must be said, with parrhesia. After the last Consistory in February 2014, which focused on the family, a Cardinal wrote to me saying that it was a pity that some cardinals did not have the courage to say certain things out of respect for the Pope, thinking perhaps that the Pope thought differently. This is not good – it is not synodality, because it is necessary to say everything that in the Lord we feel must be said: without human respect, without timidness. And, at the same time, we must listen with humility and accept with an open heart all that our brothers say. With these two attitudes, synodality is achieved”.

“Therefore, I ask of you”, insisted Francis, “these two attitudes of brothers in the Lord: speak with parrhesia and listen with humility. And do so with great tranquillity and peace, because the Synod always takes place 'cum Petro et sub Petro', and the presence of the Pope is a guarantee for all and a protection of faith”.

At the end the Holy Father's brief address and that of Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, France, presiding at the session, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, gave a presentation of the various stages in the preparation of this Extraordinary Assembly, the number of participants, the novelties and the work of the Secretariat of the Synod following the last Ordinary General Assembly held in October 2012 under the papacy of Benedict XVI. He concluded by expressing the hope that this Synod may be “a privileged space for this synodal collegiality, that proclaims the Gospel while walking its path. May it be permeated by a new openness to the Spirit, by a method and a style of life and witness that guarantee unity in diversity, apostolicity in Catholicity”. Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and relator general of the Synod, went on to read the “Relatio ante disceptationem”, summarised in the following article.

Summary of the Relatio ante disceptationem

Vatican City, 6 October 2014 (VIS) – The “Report prior to discussion” presented this morning by Cardinal Peter Erdo, relator general, introduces the work of the Synod, emphasising the main points in relation to which the discussion of the Assembly should develop. In this sense, it is important to highlight a new element: the report of this Synod Assembly already includes the Synod Fathers' written discourses, sent in advance to the Secretariat General of the Synod, with the aim of responding better to the collegial sense of the Assembly.

First and foremost, Cardinal Erdo's report encourages the family to be regarded with hope and mercy, proclaiming its value and beauty as, in spite of the many difficulties, it is not a “model off course”; we live in a world of mere emotions, he continues, in which life “is not a project, but rather a series of moments” and “stable commitment appears formidable” for humanity rendered fragile by individualism. But it is precisely here, faced with these “signs of the times”, that the Gospel of the family offers itself as a remedy, a “true medicine” that is to be proposed by “placing oneself in the corner of those who find it more difficult to recognise and live it”.

No, therefore, to “doom and surrender” within the Church. “There exists a clear and broadly shared heritage of faith”. For example, ideological forms such as gender theory or the equality of homosexual unions with marriage between a man and a woman do not find consensus among the majority of Catholics, while marriage and the family are still largely understood as a “patrimony” for humanity, to be protected, promoted and defended. Certainly, among believers doctrine is often little known or practised, but this does not mean that it is under discussion”. This is particularly relevant in relation to the indissolubility of marriage and its sacramental nature among baptised persons. The indissolubility of marriage is not called into question; on the other hand, it is uncontested and for the greater part observed also in the pastoral practice of the Church with those whose marriages have failed and who seek a new beginning. Therefore, not doctrinal, but rather practical questions – inseparable from the truths of faith – are in discussion in this Synod, of an exquisitely pastoral nature”.

This leads to the need for greater formation, above all for engaged couples, so that they are clearly aware both of the sacramental dignity of marriage, based on “uniqueness, fidelity and fruitfulness”, and of its nature as “in institution in society”. Although threatened by “disrupting factors” such as divorce, abortion, violence, poverty, abuse, the “nightmare” of precariousness and the imbalance caused by migration, explains Cardinal Erdo, the family remains a “school of humanity”. “The family is almost the last welcoming human reality in a world determined near exclusively by finance and technology. A new culture of the family can be the starting point for a renewed human civilisation”.

Therefore, continues the cardinal, the Church supports the family in a concrete way, although this “does not exclude the need for active commitment on the part of States” in the protection and promotion of the common good, through suitable policies.

Turning later to those who live in difficult marital conditions, Cardinal Erdo highlights that the Church is a the “House of the Father”; in relation to these people, a “renewed and adequate action of family pastoral” is necessary, in particular to enable them to feel loved by God and the ecclesial community, from a merciful perspective that does not, however, cancel out “truth and justice”. “Consequently, mercy does not take away the commitments which arise from the demands of the marriage bond. They will continue to exist even when human love is weakened or has ceased. This means that, in the case of a (consummated) sacramental marriage, after a divorce, a second marriage recognised by the Church is impossible, while the first spouse is still alive”.

Considering the diversity of situations – divorces, civil marriages, cohabitation – Cardinal Erdo highlighted the need for “clear guidelines” so that the pastors of local communities may offer practical help to couples in difficulty, avoiding improvisation and “do it yourself” pastoral care. With regard to divorced and civilly remarried persons, he underlines that it would be misleading to concentrate only on the question of receiving sacraments – it is instead important to look at the broader context of preparation for marriage and support – pastoral rather than bureaucratic – for couples, to help them understand the reasons for the failure of their first union and to identify the causes for nullity: “As regards the divorced who are civilly married, many have said that the distinction needs to be made between the one who is guilty for the break-up of the marriage and the innocent party. The Church’s pastoral care should extend to each of them in a particular way”.

Furthermore, in view of the limited knowledge of the marriage sacrament and an increasing “divorce mentality”, “it does not seem hazardous ... to believe that many marriages celebrated in the Church may be invalid”. This leads to the suggestion included in the Relatio to recognise “in the first place the obligation for two appeals of confirmation on the declaration of nullity of the marriage bond” and in any case “to avoid any type of mechanics or impression of granting a divorce” or “to avoid solutions which are unjust and scandalous”. In this respect, it is necessary also to study the practice of various Orthodox Churches which permit second or third marriages of a penitential nature.

Finally, in the last part of the document, Cardinal Erdo focuses on the Gospel of life: existence is from conception to to natural death, he remarks, and “openness to life is an essential part and intrinsic need of conjugal love, while nowadays, especially in the West, there are those who choose not to have children and those who would have them at any cost; “in both cases, the possibility of procreating a child is reduced to one’s ability of self-determination. … Welcoming life, assuming responsibility in procreating life and the care required are possible only if the family is not conceived as an isolated unit but an active part in a network of relationships. ... Increasing importance is being given to not leaving the family and families on their own, but to accompanying and supporting them in their everyday journey. ... Family tragedies are often the result of desperation, loneliness and a painful cry which no one knew how to discern”.

It is therefore important to rediscover a sense of widespread and concrete solidarity, to overcome any “privatisation of love” which empties the family of meaning and entrusts it instead to individual choice. It is necessary to create, on an institutional level, the conditions favourable to welcoming a child and for the care of the elderly as a social asset to be protected and promoted. The Church should devote herself in a special way to education in love and sexuality, explaining its value and avoiding banalisation and superficiality.

In conclusion, affirms Cardinal Erdo, the challenge for this Synod is to try to bring to today’s world, beyond the circle of practicing Catholics and considering the complex situation of society, “the attractiveness of the Christian message” about marriage and the family, giving answers that are true and full of charity”, because “the world needs Christ”.

The full text in English of the “Relatio ante disceptationem” can be consulted at: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2014/10/06/0712/03003.html

Nurturing “God's dream”, guided by the Holy Spirit

Vatican City, 5 October 2014 (VIS) – “Today the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel employ the image of the Lord’s vineyard. The Lord’s vineyard is his 'dream', the plan which he nurtures with all his love, like a farmer who cares for his vineyard. Vines are plants which need much care”, said the Holy Father in his homily during the Holy Mass celebrated this morning in the Vatican Basilica to inaugurate the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation”.

“God’s 'dream' is his people”, continued Francis. “He planted it and nurtured it with patient and faithful love, so that it can become a holy people, a people which brings forth abundant fruits of justice. But in both the ancient prophecy and in Jesus’ parable, God’s dream is thwarted. … The temptation to greed is ever present. … Greed for money and power. And to satisfy this greed, evil pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move. We too, in the Synod of Bishops, are called to work for the Lord’s vineyard. Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent. They are meant to better nurture and tend the Lord’s vineyard, to help realise his dream, his loving plan for his people. In this case the Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity”.

“We are all sinners and can also be tempted to 'take over' the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants. We can 'thwart' God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us that wisdom which surpasses knowledge, and enables us to work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity”. The Holy Father concluded, “to do a good job of nurturing and tending the vineyard, our hearts and our minds must be kept in Jesus Christ by 'the peace of God which passes all understanding'. In this way our thoughts and plans will correspond to God’s dream: to form a holy people who are his own and produce the fruits of the kingdom of God”.

Angelus: “A Bible for every family, to read often”

Vatican City, 5 October 2014 (VIS) – At midday, following the celebration of the Holy Mass for the inauguration of the Synod, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. He thanked the Pauline brothers who distributed Bibles to mark the centenary of their foundation. “With the inauguration of the Synod on the Family, with the help of the Pauline brothers we can say, a Bible in every family”, he said, remarking that “the Bible is not to be kept on a shelf, but rather kept at hand to be read often, every day, individually or together, husband and wife, parents and children, perhaps in the evening, especially on Sunday. In this way the family grows and goes forth, with the light and strength of the Word of God”.

The bishop of Rome invited all to “support the work of the Synod with prayer, invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary”. He added, “In this moment we join spiritually with those who, in the Shrine of Pompeii, elevate the traditional 'Supplication' to Our Lady of the Rosary. May she obtain peace for families and for the entire world”.

Prayer vigil for the Synod: may the Synod Fathers be able to listen to God and to the People

Vatican City, 5 October 2014 (VIS) – At 6 p.m. yesterday, Saturday, in St. Peter's Square, a prayer vigil was held for the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, organised by the Presidency of the Italian Episcopal Conference. The Synod Fathers participated in the event, which alternated moments of prayer with reflection and testimonies of family life. At 7 p.m., the Holy Father joined the families and the faithful to say, “This is the time at which we willingly return home to find ourselves at the same table, surrounded by affection, the good we have done and received, the encounters that have warmed the heart or helped it grow, the good wine that offers us a glimpse in our days of the feast without end. It is also the most difficult time for those who find themselves face to face with their own solitude, in the bitter twilight of shattered dreams and unfulfilled plans: how many people pass their days in the blind alley of resignation, neglect, even rancour; in how many homes is there a lack of the good wine of joy and thus of the flavour, the very knowledge, of life. This evening let us become the voice of prayer for all; a prayer for all”.

Francis went on to speak about “the communion of life assumed by married couples, their openness to the gift of life, mutual care, the encounter and the memory of generations, educational accompaniment, the transmission of Christian faith to children … in all this, the family continues to be an unequalled school in humanity, an indispensable contribution to a just and caring society. And the deeper its roots are, the further it is possible to go in life without becoming lost or feeling like a stranger in any land. This horizon helps us to grasp the importance of the Synod Assembly that opens tomorrow”.

“To seek what the Lord asks of His Church now, we must listen to the heartbeat of our times and perceive the spirit of humanity today, remaining impressed by their joys and hopes, their sadness and anguish. At that point we will know how to propose credibly the good news on the family”. Before concluding the Pope asked the Holy Spirit to offer the Synod Fathers the gift of listening to God and His people, invoking a sincere, open and fraternal encounter enabling them to face with pastoral responsibility the questions that come with changing times, yet always looking to Jesus Christ. He added, “With the joy of the Gospel we will recover the traces of a reconciled and merciful Church, poor and a friend to the poor; a Church able, 'in patience and in love, to overcome its sorrows and its challenges, both within itself and from without'”.

Francis to disabled athletes: your testimony is a great sign of hope

Vatican City, 4 October 2014 (VIS) – This morning, in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, the Pope received in audience seven thousand disabled athletes, members of the Italian Paralympic Committee. In his address he remarked that sport promotes contact and relations with people from different cultures and environments, and helps us become accustomed to accepting difference, transforming it into an opportunity for mutual enrichment and discovery. “Above all”, he affirmed, “sport becomes a valuable opportunity to recognise that we are brothers and sisters walking side by side, to favour a culture of inclusion and to reject throwaway culture”.

Francis reiterated that this aspect of sport becomes even more evident in relation to disabled athletes, because the physical disability they experience, “through sport and healthy competition, is transformed into a message of encouragement” for those who find themselves in similar situations, and becomes “an invitation to devote all your energies to doing good things together, overcoming barriers that we may encounter around us, and above all, those inside us”.

“Your witness, as athletes”, he exclaimed, “is a great sign of hope. It is the proof that in every person there is potential that at times we do not imagine, and that may develop with trust and solidarity. God the Father is the first to know this! He knows us better than any other, and He looks upon us with trust, He loves us as we are, but he enables us to grow according to what we are able to become. In this way, in your efforts for sport without barriers, for a world without exclusion, you are never alone” God our Father is with you!”.

“May sport therefore be for you a place where you are able to train every day, in relation to yourselves and others, a gymnasium that offers you the chance to get to know new people and environments and that helps you to be an active part of society”.

Christians in the Middle East: the Church cannot remain silent before the persecution of her children

Vatican City, 4 October 2014 (VIS) – This morning in the Pauline Chapel Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin celebrated Holy Mass for the papal representatives in the Middle East at the end of the meeting convoked at the behest of the Holy Father, dedicated to the situation faced by Christians in the region. Extensive extracts from his homily are published below:

“Today we celebrate this Holy Eucharist with concern for what is happening in various countries in the Middle East. We are profoundly troubled to see the growing threats to peace and disturbed by the conditions in which Christian communities live in the territories from Syria to Iraq, controlled by an entity that disregards rights and adopts terrorist methods to increase its power”.

“Such communities, which inhabit these lands since apostolic times, therefore find themselves facing situations of grave danger and open persecution, and are frequently forced to abandon everything and flee from their homes and their country. It is sad to note how persistent and active the forces of evil are, and how in some corrupt minds the conviction has taken hold that violence and terror are methods that can be used to impose one's will for power over others, under the pretext of affirming a specific religious concept. It is clearly a perversion of authentic religious meaning, with dramatic results and to which it is necessary to respond. The Church cannot remain silent before the persecution of her sons and daughters, and the international community cannot remain neutral between victims and the aggressor”.

“'Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge'. Thus the psalmist prays. He, who was no stranger to difficulty and violent adversaries, confidently turns to the Lord. The wicked and their machinations do not frighten him, because his life is in the Lord's hands. He knows that his true strength and safety is the Lord Who gives him peace and joy and Who prepares a definitive and joyful future. … It is the joy of every faithful Christian who knows that History is led by Providence and that the forces of evil shall not prevail”.

“This certainty that we rejoice in, far from leaving us as idle or inert spectators, encourages us as individuals and as a Christian community, as Church, in constant and trusting prayer and urges us to put into effect all those concrete initiatives that help influence governments and public opinion. Nothing must be neglected that it may be possible to do to alleviate the suffering of our brethren in need and to stop the aggressors. Providence wishes also to make use of us, of our freedom and our industriousness, our initiative and our daily efforts”.

“Persecuted Christians and all those who suffer unjustly must be able to recognise that the Church is the institution that defends them, that prays and acts for them, that is not afraid of stating the truth, becoming the word for those without a voice, defence and support for those who are abandoned, who seek refuge, who are discriminated against. Indeed, everything depends on God and His Grace, but it is necessary to act as if it all depended on us, on our prayer and our solidarity”.

In brief

Vatican City, 4 October 2014 (VIS) – THE HOLY FATHER HAS SENT A VIDEO MESSAGE to the International Centre of the Focolare Movement in Loppiano, Italy, on the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation by Chiara Lubich. The Pope remarked that Loppiano “inspired by the Gospel of fraternity … lives in the service of the Church and the world”, and offers a “living and effective witness of communion among persons of different nations, cultures and vocations” and maintaining, above all, mutual and continual charity in everyday life.

NO MORE WAR OR HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, affirm the papal representatives in the Middle East at the end of their meeting in the Vatican from 2 to 4 October, during which they discussed the situation faced by Christians in the region. They expressed their serious concerns regarding the actions of various extremist groups, in particular the “Islamic State”, before whose violence and abuses it is impossible to remain indifferent. The international community cannot remain inert, they remarked, when faced with massacres carried out on the pretext of religious belief or ethnic origin or the exodus of thousands of people and the destruction of their places of worship. The participants in the meeting emphasised that it is acceptable to stop an unjust aggressor, always with respect for international law. However, the problem cannot be entrusted solely to the usual military response, but must be faced in more depth, starting from the root causes that are exploited by fundamentalist ideology. An important role can be played by religious leaders, Christian and Muslim, collaborating to promote dialogue and education in mutual understanding, and clearly denouncing the abuse of religion to justify violence. Faced with the crisis of so many people forced to leave their homes in a brutal fashion, the participants highlighted the need to recognise the rights of Christians and other ethnic and religious groups to be able to remain in their homelands and, should it be necessary for them to leave, to return in suitable conditions of safety, with the possibility of living and working in freedom and with prospects for the future. In the current circumstances this requires commitment on the part of the governments involved and the international community as a whole. Finally, they stressed that we cannot resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians, who for two thousand years have confessed the name of Jesus Christ there.


Vatican City, 4 October 2014 (VIS) – This morning, the Holy Father received the following in separate audiences:

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

- Archbishop Joseph Edward Kurtz of Louisville, U.S.A., president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, with Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, deputy president, Msgr. Ronny E. Jenkins, secretary general and J. Brian Bransfield, adjunct secretary general;

- Archbishop Wojciech Zaluski, apostolic nuncio in Burundi;

- Msgr. Paolo Rudelli, special envoy and Holy See Permanent Observer at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 6 October 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

On Saturday, 4 October the Holy Father:

- accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Arundel and Brighton, England, presented by Bishop Kieran Conry, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

- appointed Fr. Stane Zore, O.F.M., as metropolitan archbishop of Ljubljana (area 6,134, population 776,336, Catholics 554,417, priests 428, permanent deacons 221, religious 546), Slovenia. The bishop-elect was born in Sel Pri Kamniku, Slovenia in 1958, gave his solemn vows in 1984, and was ordained a priest in 1985. He has served in a number of roles, including parish priest, rector of the national Shrines of Brezje and Sveta Gora, guardian in various fraternities, master of novices, and provincial minister of the province of the Holy Cross in Slovenia. He is currently provincial minister of his order and president of the Conference of Men and Women Religious in Slovenia (KORUS).

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