Synod discusses need for dialogue with the world

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A language that facilitates “dialogue with the world”, “graduality” as an attitude which takes into consideration the difficulties that can separate real families from the Christian ideal, the “long, personalised and also severe” path of preparation for the marriage sacrament, embracing remarried divorcees (“the Eucharist is not the sacrament of the perfect, but rather of those who are on the way”). These are some of the topics that emerged in the Extraordinary Synod on the family which kicked off yesterday in the Vatican. Pope Francis is present at all the meetings.

The Holy See Press Office reported on the general debate which continued throughout today’s second and third Congregations following yesterday’s opening morning session. Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, spoke at a multilingual press conference and written summaries of speeches were published. These summaries do not specify which Synod Father discussed which issue but they provide an overview of the themes that emerged from the discussions. 70 Synod Fathers spoke between yesterday (the first day of the two-week meeting) and this morning. Addresses were a mix of scheduled and spontaneous speeches.

This morning “at the opening of the Congregation, it was announced that the Ordinary Consistory, convoked by the Holy Father for Monday 20 October, will be devoted to the situation in the Middle East, on the basis of the results of the meeting of various Papal Representatives and Superiors of the competent Dicasteries, held in the Vatican from 2 to 4 October,” Fr. Lombardi said.

“From many quarters, however, there has emerged the need to adapt the language of the Church, so that doctrine on the family, life and sexuality is understood correctly: it is necessary to enter into dialogue with the world, looking to the example offered by the Vatican Council, or rather with a critical but sincere openness. If the Church does not listen to the world, the world will not listen to the Church.” Fr. Lombardi said during the course of his briefing, which he jokingly described as an “attempt to give a brief overview” of what was said. Fr. Thomas Rosica, consultor on the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications and English-language assistant to the Holy See Press Office, mentioned a statement made by one of the Synod Fathers who emphasized that “expressions such as ‘intrinsically disordered’ (used in reference to homosexuality, Ed.) or ‘contraceptive mentality’ are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.”

Don Miguel Dorantes was in charge of the news briefing in Spanish. Many called for “respect for graduality”, in other words, the fact that “there is a path Christians follow to approach the ideal of the Christian family and marriage,” Fr. Lombardi said.

During yesterday afternoon’s session, “it was underlined that even imperfect situations must be considered with respect: for instance, de facto unions in which couples live together with fidelity and love present elements of sanctification and truth,” the Vatican said in its summary. “It is necessary to truly love families in difficulty.”

“In spite of appearances to the contrary, people are no longer satisfied by selfishness and instead seek ideals. Humanity desires happiness and the Christian knows that happiness is Christ, but no longer succeeds in finding the suitable language to communicate this to the world.”

Among the many points covered this morning, it was emphasised that “the path of preparation for the marriage sacrament, must therefore be long, personalised and also severe, without the fear of eventually leading to a reduction in the number of weddings celebrated in Church.” “Today’s debate then turned again to couples in difficulty and divorced and civilly remarried persons.” “Suffering families do not seek rapid pastoral solutions, and they do not wish to be a mere statistical figure, but rather feel the need to be inspired, to feel that they are welcomed and loved. More space must be allowed for a sacramental rather than a juridical form of logic. With regard to the approach to the Eucharist by the divorced and remarried, it was emphasised that it is not the sacrament of the perfect, but rather of those who are on the way.”

During the debate, it was emphasised that “there are other religions Christians can draw inspiration from, particularly in areas where Christian communities form a minority. In the press conference, Cardinal Bechera Rai, the Maronite Patriarch of Beirut, referred specifically to the example of Islam.

The Synod opened today with a homily pronounced by Cardinal Chibly Langlois, Bishop of Les Cayes (Haiti). “Our world … is marked by injustices of all kinds and victims in many populations. There are innumerable families who suffer because of poverty, exploitation, violence and war,” the cardinal said, referring especially to the situation in Syria, Iraq, Africa and Haiti. The idea came up of sending a message on behalf of the Synod, to Iraq’s families. The Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, one of the Synod’s delegate presidents, told the story of a married couple from the Philippines, George and Cynthia Campos. The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who also spoke at the press conference, said discussions were “cordial”, participants are not hesitating to speak openly about the “difficulties” families and the Church face. Issues are viewed from a “pastoral” rather than an “academic” angle and there is a real sense of open sharing and a common path, he said.

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By Iacopo Scaramuzzi