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