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Friday, October 10, 2014

Eighth General Congregation: Christian education in difficult family situations

Vatican City, 10 October 2014 (VIS) – During the eighth general Congregation, held yesterday afternoon, the general debate continued to follow the agenda of the Instrumentum Laboris, focusing on the theme “The Church and the Family in the Challenge of Upbringing (Part III, Chapter 2). The Challenge of Upbringing in General / Christian Education in Difficult Family Situations”.

Firstly, the vocation of life as a basic element of the family was emphasised; this led to an invitation to the faithful to deepen their knowledge of Paul VI’s Encyclical, Humanae Vitae, thus better understanding the meaning of the use of natural methods of fertility control and the non-acceptance of contraception. Union and procreation, it was said, are not separate from the conjugal act. The condemnation of genetic manipulation and cryopreservation of embryos was therefore reiterated forcefully.

From various quarters there emerged the tendency of several states and organisations based in the Western world to present, especially in the context of Africa, various concepts (including abortion and homosexual unions) as “human rights”, linked to economic aid and strong pressure campaigns for the promotion of such concepts. In this respect, it was highlighted that the expression “rights to sexual and reproductive health” does not have a precise definition in international law and ends up encompassing mutually contradictory principles such as the condemnation of forced abortion and the promotion of safe abortion, or the protection of maternity and the promotion of contraception. Also without any binding value, the promotion of such “rights” represents a risk, as it may influence the interpretation of other norms, especially in combating discrimination against women.

The Assembly reiterated the importance of adequate preparation for marriage, as its celebration seems to be increasingly reduced to the social and legal status, rather than a religious and spiritual bond. The preparatory course, it was noted, is often perceived by couples as an imposition, a task to complete without conviction, and as a result it is too brief. Since marriage is a vocation for life, preparation for it should be long and detailed, as in the case of preparation for religious life. It was also shown that, among couples, there is a frequent lack of awareness of the sacramental value of the marriage bond, so much so that the celebration of the marriage rite, it was said, is not automatically the celebration of the marriage sacrament.

With regard to the streamlining of procedures for the process of verifying matrimonial nullity, it was recalled that a special study Commission for the reform of the canonical marriage nullification process was instituted by the Holy Father Francis on 20 September 2014, and the hope was expressed that it will enable a simpler procedure to be put into effect, which must however be single and uniform for all the Church. Furthermore, with regard to the double confirming sentences consequent to mandatory appeal, it was asked whether the possibility had been raised of leaving the decision of recourse to appeal to the discretion of the bishop. At the same time, the hope was expressed that there would be a greater presence of suitably prepared lay judges, women in particular.

The Assembly went on to insist on the importance of good preparation for priests in relation to the pastoral care of marriage and the family, and remarked that homilies can be used as a special and effective moment for proclaiming the Gospel of the family to the faithful. It was commented that there is a need for formation and information, as the spiritual holiness of the priest, his creativity and his direct relationship with families are particularly appreciated by the faithful.

There were further reflections on the relationship between migration and family, in which it was reiterated that the family unit is a fundamental right to be accorded to every migrant, and the importance of protection for the right to family unity through international migratory policies was emphasised. It was said that the family is an essential element for the integration of migrants in host countries.

During the hour dedicated to free discussion – between 6 and 7 p.m. – three themes emerged in particular: with regard to divorced and remarried persons, the need for a penitential path was highlighted, to be accompanied by reflection on the case of divorced persons who remain alone and suffer in silence, at the margins of social life. Secondly, mention was made of the need to protect the children of divorced couples from suffering the psychological affects of their parents’ divorce. In this respect, it was recalled that adequate pastoral care of children often causes their parents to draw closer to the Church.

Thirdly, the importance of the relationship between the family and the education of children was affirmed, with particular reference to parents’ right to choose the most suitable educational plan for their children, so that they may receive a quality education.

Finally, the Secretary General of the Synod, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, announced that during the eight general Congregations, there had been a total of 180 interventions from the Synod Fathers, with the addition of 80 more during the hours of open debate.

Ninth General Congregation: listen to the laity

Vatican City, 10 October 2014 (VIS) – During the ninth general Congregation, which took place this morning, 15 interventions were heard (6 from couples and 9 from single Auditors), almost all laypersons engaged in the fields of family pastoral care, bioethics and human ecology. From various countries throughout the world and representing almost all the continents, the Auditors brought to the Assembly their living testimony of family apostolate lived in everyday life.

Firstly, mention was made of the difficulties experienced by families living in the Middle East, especially in Iraq: these numerous conflicts have serious repercussions on families, divided by the death of their members, forced to migrate in search of a safe place to live, deprived of a future for the young who are removed from schools or for the elderly who are abandoned to their own devices. The unity of the Christian family in the Middle East is profoundly disrupted, with consequences also for the social and national unity of the countries in the region. Faced with such dramatic situations, the Church truly represents a safe haven, a “family of families” that offers comfort and hope. It is also necessary to prepare married couples to be “mediators” of peace and reconciliation.

Another point highlighted by the Auditors was the need for the Church to listen more to laypeople in the search for solutions to the problems of families, especially in relation to the sphere of intimacy in the life of couples. For this reason it is important for there to be synergy between the academic world and the pastoral world, so as to form not “technicians” but rather pastoral workers who know and understand how to promote the themes of family and life through a solid Catholic overall anthropological vision.

Furthermore, the Auditors remarked on the need for greater dialogue between Church and State, also through the efforts of lay faithful who, without motivations of personal ambition, know how to promote the protection of the rights of the family and the defence of life, working for a State with a human face. The laity, it was remarked, must be active and competent in the public defence of the values of life and the family.

The interventions focused on the need to adequately and permanently prepare priests in relation to themes regarding the family, especially in relation to openness to life, so that they are able to explain and speak naturally and clearly about conjugal love. It was also noted that if natural family planning is explained in depth, highlighting its positive worth, it can strengthen the life of the couple. In this respect, it was reiterated that homilies, if well prepared, may ensure that the faithful participate more fully in the celebration of Mass.

A further starting point for reflection shed light on the importance of testimony: the young do not need theory, it was said, but they clearly understand the centrality of the family if it is demonstrated by families themselves, credible witnesses and subjects of evangelisation. For this, the Assembly reflected on the need for couples to be accompanied by adequate pastoral care after marriage as well as before.

The Auditors then gave voice to the suffering of those who lose a family member: widows and widowers, orphans, or parents who lose a child. For these people, the accompaniment of the Church is fundamental, through support groups and sharing, so that they do not become lost in the profound anguish of loss, and the fear of a “desert” of emotions, but remain firm in their faith.

The Synod Fathers went on to speak about the importance of “human ecology”, which helps to combat the negative affects of economic globalisation, which often proposes models contrary to Catholic doctrine. They expressed their firm condemnation of all forms of domestic violence, especially in relation to women, showing that this is often perpetrated by young people.

Finally, the need for communication within families was emphasised, as sharing between couples, participation of both parents in the education of children, and above all prayer within domestic walls, all contribute to strengthening the family unit.

Message for families affected by conflicts

Vatican City, 10 October 2014 (VIS) – The full text of the message of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for families who suffer as a result of conflicts is published below:

“Gathered around the Successor of the Apostle Peter, we the Synod Fathers of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, along with all participants, share the paternal concern of the Holy Father, expressing our profound closeness to all the families who suffer as a consequence of the many conflicts in progress.

“In particular, we raise to the Lord our prayers for Iraqi and Syrian families, forced on account of their profession of the Christian faith or their belonging to other ethnic or religious communities, to abandon everything and flee towards a future without any form of certainty. We join with the Holy Father Francis in emphasising that no-one may use the name of God to commit violence, and that to kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. Offering thanks to International Organisations and Countries for their solidarity, we invite persons of good will to offer the necessary assistance and aid to the innocent victims of the current barbarism, and at the same time we implore the international community to act to re-establish peaceful co-existence in Iraq, in Syria, and in all the Middle East.

“Equally, our thoughts go to those families that are torn apart and suffering in other parts of the world, and who suffer persistent violence. We wish to assure them of our constant prayer that the Lord may convert hearts and bring peace and stability to those who are now in need.

“May the Holy Family of Nazareth, which suffered on the painful road of exile make every family a community of love and reconciliation a source of hope for the whole world”.

“Useless slaughter”: believers and the Holy See during the First World War

Vatican City, 10 October 2014 (VIS) – A press conference was held yesterday at 11 a.m. in the Holy Press Office to present the International Congress “Useless Slaughter: Catholics and the Holy See in the First World War”, organised by the Pontifical Council for Historical Sciences. The speakers were Fr. Bernard Ardura, O. Praem., president of the Pontifical Council for Historical Sciences and Professor Roberto Morozzo della Rocca of the “Roma Tre” University.

“The initiative of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences aims to bring together numerous specialists in the field, with the intention of offering a reinterpretation of the conflict not only seen but also experienced by believers, mostly Catholics but also Protestants and Orthodox – and more specifically for the Holy See that, at the time again without territory of its own, and therefore within the territory of Italy, involved in the conflict, sought as far as possible to safeguard its specific nature”.

The theme of the congress, “Useless Slaughter”, are two words that express the drama of the First World War. One hundred years after the outbreak of the first world war, the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, in collaboration with the Hungarian Academy in Rome and the Commission International d'Histoire et Etudes du Christianisme, have offered the opportunity to review the historiography with particular attention to the commitment of Catholics and the Holy See in the conflict.

Fr. Bernard Ardura explained that although the central theme of the meeting was Catholics and the Holy See in the First World War, the congress also includes interventions from various historians regarding States with predominantly Protestant or Orthodox citizens. It is hoped, he affirmed, that a second Congress will be held in 2018 on the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles which were, at least in part, at the origin of the Second World War and whose repercussions can still be felt at the dawn of the 21st century.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 10 October 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Rev. Jose Joao dos Santos Marcos of the clergy of Lisbon, Portugal, as coadjutor of the diocese of Beja (area 12,300, population 211,964, Catholics 175,946, priests 54, permanent deacons 10, religious 75), Portugal. The bishop-elect was born in Monte Perobolso, Portugal in 1949 and was ordained a priest in 1974. He studied at the Higher Institute of Theological Studies in Lisbon, and has served in a number of pastoral roles, including parish priest of the Church of “Sao Tiago” in Camarate and “Nossa Senhora da Encarnacao” in Apelacao. He is currently spiritual director of the Christ King major seminary (Olivais) of the patriarchate of Lisbon, spiritual director in the “Redemptoris Mater” seminary, Lisbon, member of the pastoral council of the patriarchate of Lisbon, and canon of the Cathedral Chapter of Lisbon.
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