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Monday, October 13, 2014

Relatio post disceptationem: listen to the family and discuss pastoral perspectives, with a gaze fixed on Christ

Vatican City, 13 October 2014 (VIS) – The “post-discussion report” of the Extraordinary Synod on the family was presented this morning by the General Rapporteur of the Assembly, Cardinal Peter Erdo. It summarises the Synod Fathers’ main reflections that have emerged during the General Congregations during recent days, and forms the basis of the final documents of the Synod.

The Report sets out three main guidelines: listening to the socio-cultural context in which families live today; discussing the pastoral perspectives to be taken, and above all, looking to Christ and to His Gospel of the family.

The family, therefore, is “decisive and valuable”, the “source of joys and trials, of deep affections and relations, at times wounded”, a “school of humanity”, and must first be listened to in its “complexity”. Exasperated individualism, the “great test” of solitude, the “narcissistic affectivity” linked to the “fragility” of sentiments, the “nightmare” of precariousness in the workplace, along with war, terrorism and migrations increasingly cause deterioration in family situations. It is here, according to the Relatio, that the Church must give “hope and meaning” to the life of modern humanity, ensuring that “the doctrine of faith” is better known, but proposing it “with mercy”.

Turning our gaze to Christ “reaffirms the indissoluble union between a man and a woman”, but also allows us to “interpret the nuptial covenant in terms of continuity and novelty”. The principle, explains Cardinal Erdo, must be that of “gradualness” for couples in failed marriages, with an “inclusive perspective” for the “imperfect forms” of nuptial reality: “Realizing the need, therefore, for spiritual discernment with regard to cohabitation, civil marriages and divorced and remarried persons, it is the task of the Church to recognise those seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries. … The Church turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings”.

There is a need, therefore, for a “new dimension of family pastoral” able to nurture seeds in the process of maturation, such as civil marriages characterised by stability, deep affection, and responsibility in relation to offspring, and which may lead to a sacramental bond. Frequently cohabitation or de facto unions are not dictated by a rejection of Christian values, but rather by practical needs, such as waiting for a stable job. The Church, a true “House of the Father”, a “torch carried among the people”, continued the Cardinal, must accompany “her most fragile sons and daughters, marked by wounded and lost love, with attention and care”, restoring trust and hope to them.

In the third part, the “post-discussion Report” goes on to face the “most urgent pastoral issues”, the implementation of which is entrusted to the individual local Churches, always in communion with the Pope. First, the “proclamation of the Gospel of the family” is “not to condemn, but to cure human fragility”. This proclamation also involves the faithful: “Evangelising is the shared responsibility of all God’s people, each according to his or her own ministry and charism. Without the joyous testimony of spouses and families, the announcement, even if correct, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words that is a characteristic of our society. Catholic families are themselves called upon to be the active subjects of all the pastoral of the family”.

The Gospel of the family is “joy”, underlined Cardinal Erdo, and therefore requires “a missionary conversion” so as not to stop at a proclamation that is “merely theoretical and has nothing to do with people’s real problems”. At the same time, it is also necessary to act in relation to language: “Conversion has, above all, to be that of language so that this might prove to be effectively meaningful. … This is not merely about presenting a set of regulations but about putting forward values, responding to those who find themselves in need today even in the most secularised countries”.

Adequate preparation for Christian marriage is also essential, as this is not merely a cultural tradition or a social obligation, but rather a “vocational decision”. Without “complicating the cycles of formation”, the aim should be that of exploring the issue in depth, not limiting the issue merely to “general orientations” but instead renewing also “the formation of presbyters and other pastoral operators” on the matter, with the involvement of families themselves, whose witness is to be privileged. The accompaniment of the Church is also suggested following marriage, a “vital and delicate” period in which couples mature their understanding of the sacrament, its meaning and the challenges that it poses.

In the same way, the Church, continues the Report, must encourage and support laypersons occupied with culture, politics and in society, to ensure that those factors that impede authentic family life, leading to discrimination, poverty, exclusion and violence, are denounced.

Moving on to the issue of separated couples, divorced persons, including those subsequently remarried, Cardinal Erdo underlined that “it is not wise to think of single solutions or those inspired by a logic of ‘all or nothing’”; dialogue must therefore continue in the local Churches, “with respect and love” for every wounded family, thinking of those who have unjustly suffered abandonment by their spouse, avoiding discriminatory attitudes and protecting children: “It is indispensable to assume in a faithful and constructive way the consequences of separation or divorce on the children; they must not become an 'object' to be fought over and the most suitable means need to be sought so that they can get over the trauma of family break-up and grow up in the most serene way possible”.

With regard to the streamlining of procedures for the recognition of matrimonial nullity, the General Rapporteur of the Synod reported the proposals made by the Assembly: to abandon the need for the double conforming sentence, to establish an administrative channel at diocesan level, and the introduction of a summary process in the case of clear nullity, and the possibility of “giving weight to the faith of those about to be married in terms of the validity of the sacrament of marriage”. The Cardinal emphasised that this all requires suitably prepared clergy and laypersons and a greater responsibility on the part of local bishops.

With regard to access to the sacrament of the Eucharist for divorced and remarried persons, the Report lists the main suggestions that emerged from the Synod: maintaining the current discipline; allowing greater openness in particular cases, that may not be resolved without further injustice or suffering; or rather, opting for a “penitential” approach: partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path – under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop –, and with a clear undertaking in favour of the children. This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances.

The question of “spiritual communion”, for which a greater theological examination was called for, remains open; again, further reflection was required on mixed marriages and “serious problems” linked to the different nuptial discipline of Orthodox Churches.

With regard to homosexuals, it was underlined that they have “gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community”: the Church must therefore be, for them, a “welcoming home”. The Church affirms that same-sex unions are not “on the same footing” as marriage between a man and a woman and stated that it was unacceptable for international bodies to place pressure on pastors to make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology. However, “without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasising that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority”.

In the final part, the Report returns to the theme of Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical “Humanae Vitae”, and focuses on the question of openness to life, defining it as an “instrinsic requirement of conjugal love”. This gives rise to the need for a “realistic language” able to explain “the beauty and truth” of opening oneself to the gift of a child, also thanks to “appropriate teaching regarding natural methods of fertility control” and a “harmonious and aware” communication between spouses, in all its dimensions. Furthermore, the challenge of education is central, in which the Church has a valuable role of support for families, to support them in their choices and their responsibilities.

Finally, Cardinal Erdo underlines that the synodal dialogue took place “in great freedom and with a spirit of reciprocal listening”, and recalls that the reflections proposed so far do not represent decisions that have already been taken: indeed, the itinerary will continue with the Ordinary General Synod, again on the theme of the family, to be held in October 2015.

The full text of the Relatio post disceptationem may be consulted at:


The vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world: theme of the next Synod

Vatican City, 13 October 2014 (VIS) – During the General Congregation of the Synod, held this morning, it was announced that Pope Francis has convoked the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world”, which will be held in the Vatican from 4 to 25 October 2015.

Consistory for the canonisation of the Blesseds Joseph Vaz and Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception

Vatican City, 13 October 2014 (VIS) – On Monday, 20 October, in the New Synod Hall, the Holy Father Francis will preside at a celebration of Terce and the Ordinary Public Consistory for the canonisation of the Blesseds Joseph Vaz, Indian priest of the Oratorians of St. Philip Neri, founder of the Oratory of the Holy Cross of Miracles in Goa, India, and missionary in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Kanara, India, and Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception, Italian foundress of the Congregation of the Oblation Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. The Pope also informed the members of the College of Cardinals on the current situation faced by Christians in the Middle Eaast, and the Church's commitment to peace in the region.

Mass of thanks for the new Canadian saints

Vatican City, 11 October 2014 (VIS) – This morning in St. Peter's Basilica, a Holy Mass was celebrated to give thanks for the canonisation of the Canadian saints Francois de Laval and Marie de l'Incarnation. In his homily, the Holy Father spoke about missionaries who, like the new saints, “in docility to the Holy Spirit, have the courage to live the Gospel”.

“Missionaries have received this call: they have gone out to call everyone, in the highways and byways of the world”, he continued. “In this way they have done immense good for the Church, for once the Church stops moving, once she becomes closed in on herself, she falls ill, she can be corrupted, whether by sins or by that false knowledge cut off from God which is worldly secularism. Missionaries have turned their gaze to Christ crucified … they have been able to live in poverty and abundance, in plenty and hunger”.

The Pope gave two pieces of advice to Canadian pilgrims. “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith”, and “Recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings. Do not abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. You need only endurance”.

Pope Francis concluded by mentioning the many Canadian missionaries, so that “this memory does not lead us to abandon frankness and courage”. He added, “the devil is envious and cannot tolerate that a land can be so rich in missionaries”, and asked for prayers for Quebec, so that it may “return to the path of fruitfulness, to give many missionaries to the world” and so that the new Canadian saints “may help us as intercessors”.

Angelus: respond to the Lord's invitation with witness to charity

Vatican City, 11 October 2014 (VIS) – Today at midday, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square. Before the Marian prayer, Pope Francis commented on the day's reading from the Gospel of St. Matthew, in which God, represented by a king, gives an invitation to participate in a wedding banquet; however, none of those invited choose to attend, and some demonstrate indifference or even annoyance. The Pope first remarked on the three characteristics of the invitation: gratuitousness, amplitude, and universality. “God is good to us”, he said. “He freely offers us His friendship. He freely offers His joy and salvation. But very often we do not welcome His gifts. We prioritise our material concerns, our own interests, and even when the Lord calls us, many times it is as if this irritates us”.

He continued, “Some of those invited even mistreat and kill the servants who bring the invitation. But despite the lack of response from those invited, God's project is not interrupted. Faced with rejection from those He invites first, he is not discouraged and does not cancel the feast, but instead extends the invitation again, this time expanding it beyond reasonable limits, sending His servants to the squares and crossroads to gather together all the people they meet”.

“God's goodness has no limits, and does not discriminate against anyone. This is why the banquet of the gifts of the Lord is universal. It is universal for everyone. He gives everyone the opportunity to respond to His invitation, to His call; no-one has the right to feel privileged or to claim exclusivity”. He concluded, “The goodness of God does not have limits and does not discriminate against anyone. We are all called upon to expand the Church to the dimensions of the Kingdom of God. There is only one condition: put on the wedding garment: that is, bear concrete witness to charity towards God and neighbour”.

Genoa in the Pope's prayers

Vatican City, 12 October 2014 (VIS) – At the end of today's Angelus, the Pope addressed the city of Genoa, again afflicted by floods. “I assure my prayers for the victims and those who have suffered serious damages. May Our Lady of the Guard support the dear people of Genoa in their collective efforts to overcome this crisis”.

He went on to greet all the faithful and pilgrims, especially the Canadians in Rome for the canonisation of Francois de Laval and Marie de l'Incarnation. “May the new saints arouse apostolic fervour in the hearts of young Canadians”.

Synod Fathers to draw up the Relatio Synodi

Vatican City, 11 October 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has decided that, to draw up the Relatio Synodi, the General Rapporteur, the Special Secretary and the Secretary General will be joined by the following Synod Fathers: Cardinals Gianfranco Ravasi and Donald William Wuerl, Archbishops Victor Manuel Fernandez and Carlos Aguiar Retes, Bishop Peter Kang U-il and Rev. Fr. Adolfo Nicolas Pachon, S.J.

Tenth General Congregation: Fraternal Delegates

Vatican City, 11 October 2014 (VIS) – The tenth general Congregation involved hearing seven fraternal Delegates of various Christian confessions. The intervention of the eighth Delegate, Metropolitan Hilarion, president of the Department for External Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, will be given in the coming days.

In their interventions, the fraternal Delegates expressed to the Holy Father and the Synod Fathers their gratitude for the invitation to participate in the Assembly. Each one then went on to present the question of the family in the context of his own Christian confession.

Overall, it was underlined that the challenges and hopes attached to the family unit are common to all Christians: the family, it was said, is fundamental for society, it is the foundation of communion in justice. Certainly, there is no lack of difficulties: the economic crisis is pressing, the mass media reduce moments of dialogue in the home, at times even proposing models that lead to adultery, and factors such as wars, migration, globalisation, the drama of diseases such as Aids and Ebola, and the Islamic fundamentalism present in some countries continually place the good of the family at risk in every context.

Common to all Christians is the need for adequate preparation for marriage and appropriate reflection on marriage between believers and non-believers. With regard to divorced and remarried persons, it was said that their acceptance in the Church may give new hope, promoting a more serene family life and thus creating a richer society. Therefore, on the part of all Christian confessions, it is essential to listen to those who find themselves in difficult family situations, who are in need of mercy and compassion every day, as the Church wishes always to help those who suffer, looking both at the Sacred Scriptures and at the problems of contemporary life.

The wish was expressed for listening and comprehension, far from any form of condemnation, in relation to homosexual persons, while emphasising that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Particular attention was shown towards children born in difficult contexts and for all victims of violence, especially women and minors, as the defence of the most vulnerable, of those who have no voice of their own – believers or otherwise – is common to all Christians.

Another central theme in the interventions by the fraternal Delegates was that of the proclamation of the Gospel. The family, it was said, is the first school of faith: it is the place where knowledge of the Good News is transmitted and disseminated, and it is therefore essential that Christians share the “joy of the Gospel”, that “evangelii gaudium” frequently mentioned by Pope Francis.

Some differences in approach were encountered, for example on the theme of birth control, underlining the freedom of conscience of believers, while always respecting the meaning of love and marriage. Furthermore, in relation to second marriages, it was said by the Orthodox delegates that these in any case constitute a deviation and while they are celebrated, it is after a period of accompaniment on the part of the Church in an attempt to bring married couples towards reconciliation.

In particular, the fraternal Delegates of the Churches present in the Middle East thanked Pope Francis for the prayer vigil for peace in Syria and throughout the world, held on 7 September 2013; in this context, the responsibility of evangelisation by Middle Eastern Christian families within a largely Islamic context was emphasised.

Finally, the delegates concluded their interventions by expressing the hope that the extraordinary Synod on the family will prove successful, especially in view of the ordinary Assembly scheduled for 2015.

Declaration from the director of the Holy See Press Office

Vatican City, 11 October 2014 (VIS) – In response to questions from journalists regarding the meeting between the Holy Father Francis and the Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung, the director of the Holy See Press Office Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., issued the following declaration:

“As agreed, the Holy Father Francis will receive Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, on Saturday 18 October 2014. The meeting will allow a deepening of the bilateral relations between Viet Nam and the Holy See”.


Vatican City, 11 October 2014 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

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

- Cardinal Geraldo Majello Agnelo, archbishop emeritus of Sao Salvador de Bahia, Brazil;

- Bishop Francesco Moraglia, patriarch of Venice, Italy.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 11 October 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

- appointed Bishop Djalwana Laurent Lompo as metropolitan archbishop of the archdiocese of Niamey (area 200,000, population 7,637,000, Catholics 20,600, priests 39, religious 81), Niger. Msgr. Djalwana Laurent Lompo, currently auxiliary of the same diocese, succeeds Archbishop Michel Carteteguy, S.M.A., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the archdiocese, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law, was accepted by the Holy Father.

- appointed Archbishop Vincenzo Pelvi, military ordinary emeritus of Italy, as metropolitan archbishop of Foggia-Bovino (area 1,666, population 215,000, Catholics 212,000, priests 154, permanent deacons 10, religious 228), Italy. He succeeds Archbishop Francesco Pio Tamburrino, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- appointed Bishop Jan Piotrowski, auxiliary of Tarnow, Poland, as bishop of Kielce (area 8,319, population 813,525, Catholics 768,743, priests 729, religious 437), Poland. He succeeds Bishop Kazimierz Ryczan, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.
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