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Francis wraps up a successful Family synod with significant reform debate

Wednesday, October 28th 2015 - 09:20 UTC
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In his closing speech in the synod Pope Francis said the Oct. 4-25 meeting of 270 bishops from around the world led to a “rich and lively dialogue.” In his closing speech in the synod Pope Francis said the Oct. 4-25 meeting of 270 bishops from around the world led to a “rich and lively dialogue.”

After more than two years of preparation, diocesan surveys, secret meetings, arguments, counterarguments and dialogue, the final report from the Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family is now in Pope Francis’ hands.

 General satisfaction with the final document, papal warnings against legalism and concerns over the interpretation of paragraphs relating to pastoral care of remarried divorcees marked the end of the synod, which wrapped up Sunday with a Mass celebrated by the Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica.

It now remains to be seen what Pope Francis does with the document. According to Jesuit Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Society of Jesus, there “will be” a post-synodal apostolic exhortation from the Pope, giving his definitive summary of the both synods.

“I don’t believe it will come out late, after a year, as has happened in other synods and with other popes,” he told the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera Oct. 26. “One year is too long; experts in management have told me that after eight months without saying anything, people revert back to the point of departure, and so the whole process has to be redone.”

“I believe Francis will prepare it more rapidly than that.” At the end of their final report, the synod members asked the Pope to consider the possibility of issuing a document on the family.

In his closing speech in the synod hall on Saturday, Pope Francis said the Oct. 4-25 meeting of 270 bishops from around the world led to a “rich and lively dialogue.”

The meeting, on the theme of “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Modern World,” brought forth the image of a Church that “does not simply ‘rubber-stamp,’ but draws from the sources of her faith living waters to refresh parched hearts,” he said.

The Pope listed the nature of the synod, saying this included not finding exhaustive solutions, but listening, interpreting realities and not superficially judging difficult cases and wounded families. He said the meeting had sought to find new pastoral approaches to situations that might be “considered strange and almost scandalous” for one bishop but seem “normal” for another living in a different continent or culture.

At the same time, he criticized those who uphold the letter of the law rather than its spirit. The Church’s first duty, he said, is “not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion and to lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord.”

He said “true defenders of doctrine” are those who put people and “God’s gratuitousness of love and forgiveness” above ideas and formulae. Laws and commandments, while not unimportant, “were made for man and not vice versa,”.

In his homily at the closing Mass of the synod Oct. 25, the Pope warned against speaking and working for Jesus while living “far from his heart, which is reaching out to those who are wounded.” A faith that “does not know how to root itself in the life of people remains arid and, rather than oases, creates other deserts,” he said.

The Pope’s words followed the publication Saturday of the synod’s final report, published so far only in Italian, in which all of its 94 paragraphs received more than the required two-thirds majority. The document covered a range of issues such as domestic violence, violence against women, incest and abuse within families, poverty, families facing persecution and war, marriage preparation and pornography.

Categories: Politics, International.

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