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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sixth General Congregation: the Church is the house of the Father, not a customs office, and must not be indifferent to weakness

Vatican City, 9 October 2014 (VIS) – During the Sixth General Congregation, which took place yesterday afternoon, the Synod Fathers continued their debate on the theme set forth in the Instrumentum Laboris: “Difficult pastoral situations (Part II, Chapter 3). Situations in Families / Concerning Unions of Persons of the Same Sex”.

Firstly, it was underlined that the Church is not a customs house, but rather the house of the Father, and must therefore offer patient accompaniment to all people, including those who find themselves in difficult pastoral situations. The true Catholic Church encompasses healthy families and families in crisis, and therefore in her daily effort of sanctification must not show indifference in relation to weakness, as patience implies actively helping the weakest.

With regard to processes for the declaration of nullity of marriage, in general the need to streamline the procedures was observed by many (along with the need to integrate more competent laypersons in the ecclesiastical Tribunals), but the Assembly also noted the danger of superficiality and the need always to safeguard respect for the truth and the rights of the parties. It was also remarked that the process is not contrary to pastoral charity, and judicial pastoral must avoid attempts to apportion blame, instead encouraging a calm discussion of cases. Again with regard to marriage nullity, the hypothesis of recourse to administrative channels, not in lieu of the judicial process but rather as a complement to it, was considered. It was suggested that it would be the responsibility of the bishop to decide which requests for nullity could be dealt with through administrative channels.

It was strongly emphasised that an attitude of respect must be adopted in relation to divorced and remarried persons, as they often live in situations of unease or social injustice, suffer in silence and in many cases seek a gradual path to fuller participation in ecclesial life. Pastoral care must not therefore be repressive, but full of mercy.

With regard to polygamy, on the one hand it was underlined that this is a diminishing tendency as it is favoured mostly within rural contexts and therefore undermined by advancing urbanisation; on the other, it was recalled that there are polygamists who have converted to Catholicism and who wish to receive the sacraments of Christian initiation, and it was asked if there are specific pastoral measures to engage with these situations with the appropriate discernment.

Attention returned to the need for greater preparation for marriage, especially among the young, to whom the beauty of sacramental union must be presented, along with an adequate emotional education that is not merely a moralistic exhortation that risks generating a sort of religious and human illiteracy. The path to marriage must involve a true growth of the person.

During the hour of free discussion – between 6 and 7 p.m. – the interventions presented experiences and practical models for the pastoral care of divorced and remarried persons, making extensive use of listening groups. It was remarked that it is important to carefully avoid moral judgement or speaking of a “permanent state of sin”, seeking instead to enable understanding that not being admitted to the sacrament of the Eucharist does not entirely eliminate the possibility of grace in Christ and is due rather to the objective situation of remaining bound by a previous and indissoluble sacramental bond. In this respect, the importance of spiritual communion was emphasised repeatedly. It was also commented that there are evident limits to these proposals and that certainly there are no “easy” solutions to the problem.

Also in relation to the pastoral care of homosexual persons, emphasis was placed on the importance of listening and the use of listening groups.

Further interventions focused on the issue of Catholics who change Christian confession, or vice versa, with the difficult consequences that may arise from inter-confessional marriages and the validation of their validity in the light of the possibilities of divorce in the Orthodox Churches.

Recalling the Ordinary Synod held in 1980 on the theme of “The Christian family”, it was observed that great evolution has occurred since then in international legal culture and it is therefore necessary for the Church to be aware of this, and for cultural institutions such as the Catholic Universities to face this situation in order to retain a role in ongoing debate.

Seventh General Congregation: The pastoral challenges concerning an openness to life

Vatican City, 9 October 2014 (VIS) – The seventh general Congregation, which took place this morning was divided into two phases: the first consisting of further general debate on the theme of the previous afternoon, “Difficult Pastoral Situations” (Part II, Chapter 3. Situations in Families / Concerning Unions of Persons of the Same Sex”, and the second regarding the subsequent issue, “The Pastoral Challenges concerning an Openness to Life”.

In the first part, therefore, the Assembly continued its reflection on the matter of access to the sacrament of the Eucharist for divorced and remarried persons. Firstly, it re-emphasised the indissoluble nature of marriage, without compromise, based on the fact that the sacramental bond is an objective reality, the work of Christ in the Church. Such a value must be defended and cared for through adequate pre-matrimonial catechesis, so that engaged couples are fully aware of the sacramental character of the bond and its vocational nature. Pastoral accompaniment for couples following marriage would also be useful.

At the same time, it was said that it is necessary to look at individual cases and real-life situations, even those involving great suffering, distinguishing for example between those who abandon their spouse and those who are abandoned. The problem exists – this was repeated several times in the Assembly – and the Church does not neglect it. Pastoral care must not be exclusive, of an “all or nothing” type but must instead be merciful, as the mystery of the Church is a mystery of consolation.

It was in any case recalled that for divorced and remarried persons, the fact of not having access to the Eucharist does not mean that they are not members of the ecclesial community; on the contrary, it is to be taken into consideration that there exist various responsibilities that may be exercised. Furthermore, the need to simplify and speed up the procedures for the declaration of marriage nullity was underlined.

With regard to cohabitation in certain regions, it was shown that this is often due to economic and social factors and not a form of refusal of the teachings of the Church. Often, moreover, these and other types of de facto unions are lived while conserving the wish for a Christian life, and therefore require suitable pastoral care. Similarly, while emphasising the impossibility of recognising same sex marriage, the need for a respectful and non-discriminatory approach with regard to homosexuals was in any case underlined.
Further attention was paid to the matter of mixed marriages, demonstrating that in spite of the difficulties that may be encountered, it is useful to look also at the possibilities they offer as witness to harmony and interreligious dialogue. The Assembly then returned to theme of language, so that the Church may involve believers, non-believers and all persons of good will to identify models of family life that promote the full development of the human person and societal wellbeing. It was suggested that the family should be spoken of using a “grammar of simplicity” that reaches the heart of the faithful.

In the second part of the Congregation, the theme of responsible parenthood was considered, emphasising that the gift of life (and the virtue of chastity) are basic values in Christian marriage, and underlining the seriousness of the crime of abortion. At the same time, mention was made of the numerous crises experienced by many families, for instance in certain Asian contexts, such as infanticide, violence towards women and human trafficking. The need to highlight the concept of justice among the fundamental virtues of the family was underlined.

The debate turned to the issue of the responsibility of parents in educating their children in faith and in the teachings it offers: such responsibility is primordial, it was said, and it is important to pay it suitable attention. It was also noted that the pastoral care of children can create a point of contact with families who find themselves in difficult situations.

With regard to children, the negative impact of contraception on society and resulting decline in the birth rate was underlined. It was remarked that Catholics should not remain silent in relation to this issue, but should instead bring a message of hope: children are important, they bring life and joy to their parents, and they reinforce faith and religious practices.

Finally, attention turned to the essential role of the laity in the apostolate of the family and in its evangelisation, as well as lay movements able to accompany families in difficulty.

Cardinal Parolin to take possession of his title

Vatican City, 9 October 2014 (VIS) – The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff today announced that on Saturday, 11 October, at 6.30 p.m., Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin will take possession of the title of Sts. Simon and Jude Thaddeus at Torre Angela (Via di Torrenova, 162).
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