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Day: October 9, 2015

Synod: Journeying together with very different perspectives

(Vatican Radio) The first round of small language group work at the Synod of Bishops on the Family concluded on Thursday evening. Bishops, religious and lay men and women, together with delegates from other Christian Churches, spent two and a half days behind closed doors discussing the challenges facing families in different countries around the world today.
Bishop Tim Thornton of Truro in Cornwall, England is one of the 14 ‘fraternal delegates’ representing the worldwide Anglican Communion throughout the three-week meeting. He is co-chair of the English Anglican-Roman-Catholic Conversations and serves as president of the Association of Inter-Church Families. Philippa Hitchen asked him about some of the themes that have been emerging in the small group work….
Bishop Thornton says one of key things he’s hearing from his groups is the concern that the Synod document or Instrumentum Laboris, in its current form, has “a too narrowly Western perspective.”
He talks about the discussions in his group that have raised different perspectives from particular parts of the globe. He gives the example of the document’s focus on widowhood which assumes that widows are elderly, while in some parts of the globe Church leaders are facing particular problems with widows of a much younger age.
Rather than in one document, trying to describe the whole anthropological, sociological and cultural challenge, he says what is emerging is a suggestion that “what the Holy Father might want to say is to encourage each conference to do its own analysis” and bring that to the table to see what can be said together.
Bishop Thornton says in the Anglican world too “we can make the mistake of defining things through either an English or Western eye”. He speaks of experience of hearing so many different perspectives at the last Lambeth Conference and of the benefits of having dioceses in England linked with dioceses in different parts of the world….
Speaking of the tensions between those who do not want to see any changes in Church doctrine or practice and those who see a need for fresh approaches to current problems, Bishop Thornton says there are always those who have a more deductive or a more inductive way of doing theology.
He compares the Synod to the meeting of Anglican leaders from around the world that the Archbishop of Canterbury has called for in January, saying it is simply “one step in a longer process.” The key question, he stresses, is about “how willing are we to journey on with fellow Christians who have very different views”….
(from Vatican Radio)…

Synod bishops looking for more autonomy, new insight, fresh language

(Vatican Radio) At the Synod of Bishops on the Family on Friday morning, participants presented the results of their small language group work that has been going on behind closed doors for the past couple of days. Each group has been discussing the first section of the Synod’s working document, or Instrumentum Laboris , focused on the challenges facing family life today.
Philippa Hitchen was listening in and talking to some of the bishops involved….

Who exactly are those rows of men with their red and purple hats, sitting in the Synod Hall for three whole weeks? Firstly, they’re family men, in the sense that they grew up with mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, in-laws, cousins, nephews and nieces, so they know only too well the difficulties and dysfunctionalities that family life can bring to us all.  
Secondly, they’re men of God, so whatever other professional training and experience they bring, they’re men whose lives have  touched by Christ and must let their words be inspired by His love.
Thirdly, they’re pastors of their people, whose task is to help families discover and live out their missionary faith, in the day-to-day realities that vary enormously from one place, one country, one continent to the next.
That was the self-portrait of one of the Synod fathers who presented the results of his small group work on Friday. Altogether there were 13 groups, working in five different languages, and they all spoke in positive terms of the small group atmosphere with lay men and women, plus non-Catholic participants too. They also talked of the challenge of bringing together such diverging views from right across the globe. Many were critical of a “too Western perspective” that they perceived in the Synod’s working document and several suggested that much greater autonomy must go to local bishops conferences to find creative solutions to family problems in their particular parts of the world.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia presented the results of one of the English language groups:
“We came to feel that there are issues that need to be addressed, analysis that needs to be done and decisions that need to be taken at the local or regional level.”
Another common theme was to recognize and encourage the positive in peoples’ lives, rather than to talk constantly about crisis and despair, even if families can no longer be neatly packaged into a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model that the Church has held up in the past. Archbishop Coleridge again:
“What’s really in crisis is our understanding of what marriage is and what the family is…It’s easy to look back to a golden age when there was mum, dad and three of four kids……that’s not the reality today…..”
Finally there was a lot of talk about language, words lost in translation and why it’s important to do away with the kind of ‘Church-speak’ that means nothing at all to young people today. Instead many bishops cited Pope Francis’ own down-to-earth, colourful choice of words that has made people from all countries and all cultures sit up discover a new, fresh face to the unchanging truths of the Church.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Synod on the Family: Press Briefing Day 5

(Vatican Radio) Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, director of the Holy See Press Office, brought three prelates as guests on Friday to the daily media briefing on the progress of the Synod on the Family taking place at Vatican City. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manilla, Philippines and Archbishops Joseph E. of Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, and Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid, Spain, were present.
Click below to hear the report by Fr. Russell Pollitt, SJ

Cardinal Tagle told the Friday press briefing that he was impressed by what he heard in the small group work at the Synod on the Family. He said that there was a “freedom and openness” to the diverse contexts and situations that families find themselves in across the world. He said that the sharp criticism by one of the small groups, which called the document “chaotic” and said that the “Holy Father and people of God deserve something better,” was to be expected as this was a working document.
Fr. Lombardi said that Pope Francis had made an important intervention before morning prayer asking for prayers especially for the Middle East. After morning prayer the bishops working groups reported on their discussions over the last two days on the first section of Instrumentum Laboris. Once the reports were completed the Fathers began to look at part two of the working document.
Archbishop Kurtz said that he found it very helpful to work in small groups early in the Synod. He said that this enabled delegates to engage early. Kurtz said many Fathers were concerned that the final document should reflect the concrens of the whole church and nnot be too “western”. Kurtz said that migration had emerged as a strong theme and that the Fathers saw the need to call on governments to be welcoming and generous to migrants.
Archbishop Sierra said that the church needs to try and accompany families that immigrate more generously. Kurtz added that the Episcopal Conference of the United States is trying to engage the government and work towards more just laws on migration in America.
All three of the prelates affirmed the church’s teaching on the right to life and said that it was important the families who are struggling with unexpected pregnancies be accompanied pastorally.
Tagle said that this was a Synod in which the church was affirming its love and pastoral concern for families. He said that for some there was great expectation that there would be doctrinal pronouncements but that this was not what the Synod was about. He said it was about the support the church renders to the family. “We are affirming teaching not changing it, we are looking for liberating ways to give new life to families,” Tagle said. An important question, the Cardinal said, was “How do we help people live the doctrine?”
Questioned about the new synodal  process the Fathers are using, the prelates agreed that it was working. Cardinal Tagle humorously said that even if there was a little confusion it was “good to be confused from time to time!” He said that the new process was more effective because the bishops dealt with smaller pieces of the text at any given time. “We don’t have to discuss whole document after listening to three hundred interventions first,” he said. The discussions, Kurtz agreed, were now easier because the focus was on smaller parts of the document.
The prelates told the media that, without turning a blind eye to the challenges, the Fathers wanted to celebrate the family and the many families who are living faithfully in difficult conditions.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Faith, like love, grows day by day

Vatican City, 9 October 2015 (VIS) – His Beatitude Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and head of the Synod of the Chaldean Church offered a meditation during this morning’s prayer before the resumption of the work of the Synod. The Patriarch commented on the reading from St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, emphasising the apostle’s wish to visit and bring the Gospel to the Christian community in Rome. In this way he affirmed that “living the faith in communion brings consolation”.
“Paul is an apostle who feels that he is sent by God”, he said. “For him, the Gospel is an act of worship, and therefore it is praying, being in communion with God, loving, obeying, and living and bearing witness to the joy of proclaiming the Gospel in everyday life. So, one is not ashamed of the Gospel. He does not subordinate his proclamation to human opportunity or hypocritical respect, but rather considers the Gospel to be a gift of inestimable value that reveals God’s justice and grace”.
“Faith is the basic condition for being justified and becoming children of God, as it is faith that gives meaning to life”, he continued. It is not “a static fact, or speculation, but rather an inner vision, a profound mystical relationship, lived in the details of difficult everyday life. Faith, like love, is a commitment and must grow day by day in the long journey of life”. On reconciling love and justice, the Patriarch remarked that “if love does not exceed justice, the Gospel becomes empty. It is enough to hear of the experience of Iraqi Christians who left everything they had in one night in order to stay true to their faith”….

Circuli Minori – families are not alien to us

Vatican City, 9 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning, during the fourth General Congregation, the various Circuli Minori – thirteen in total – presented the results of their reflections on the first part of the Instrumentum Laboris examining the mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world.
In general the rapporteurs from the various groups, which were divided according to language (English, French,Spanish, German and Italian) considered that it was necessary to offer, as Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia, writes, “a less negative reading of history, culture and the situation of the family at this time. True, there are negative forces at work at this time in history and in the various cultures of the world; but that is far from the full story. If it were the full story, all the Church could do would be to condemn. There are also forces which are positive, even luminous, and these need to be identified since they may well be the signs of God in history”.
“The Church does not inhabit a world out of time, as Vatican Council II, ‘the Council of history’, recognised”, notes the prelate. “Nor does the Church inhabit a world outside human cultures; the Church shapes cultures and cultures shape the Church. In considering marriage and the family here and now, we were conscious of the need to address the facts of history and the realities of cultures – with both the eyes of faith and the heart of God. That is what it has meant for us to read the signs of the times”.
Another view expressed in various working groups is the need to make greater use of Scriptural language, which “can be closer to the realities of the daily experience of families and can become a bridge between faith and life”, avoiding expressions deemed too “ecclesiastical”. This “would help to understand the nature of God’s dream that families are called to make their own and to realise that in the difficulties of life they can place their trust in a God who neither disappoints nor abandons anyone”, explains Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. The prelate also observes that “an analysis of the situation of the family should recognise how, with the help of grace, families who are far from perfect, living in an imperfect world, do actually realise their vocation, even though they may fail along their journey. As members of the group we shared a reflection, each of us on the experience on our own family. What emerged was far from a stereotype of an ‘ideal family’, but rather a collage of families different in their social, ethnic, and religious background. Amid many difficulties our families gave us the gift of love and the gift of faith”.
Family men, men of faith and pastors: according to this view, expressed by Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Canada, priests and bishops must guide their pastoral ministry. “We are all, first and foremost, family men”, he said. “We have parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins. Therefore, the families of which we speak are not alien to us, they form part of our lives. This must be transparent in our language, in our texts, in our care and compassion for the families of the world. There is a danger of talking about the ‘family’ as if it were something external to us. We are men of faith. We do not claim to be psychologists, sociologists or economists, although some of us are educated in these fields. We speak primarily as men of faith and this must be seen in the first analytical part of the document. We are pastors. Our concern is that the mission that Christ entrusted to His Church, the mission that is the Church, is always fulfilled in our world today. All the efforts of the Synod must be directed towards this objective. All the documents that we draw up must conform to this fundamental concern. In particular, we would like to help our families to answer two questions: regarding vocation, who are you? And regarding the mission: what are you doing?”.
“Our final document must give hope to our families, showing the confidence we have in them, and must inspire trust in us. We must avoid causing some people to feel excluded from our care, because all families participate in the mission of the Church. We must remember that the families in the Bible are at times dysfunctional, and recall what the Word of God realised in and for them. God can carry out the same miracles today”.
Some groups observe that the analysis of the situation of the family in the Instrumentum Laboris does not reflect a universal condition, but rather a principally Western and in particular European perspective. “The historical contexts and cultures are not the same”, writes Bishop Laurent Ulrich. “It cannot be said that the number of marriages and baptisms is declining throughout the world. And we cannot speak about the same form of the Church’s presence in our respective societies. The possibilities of sharing faith in our countries are not all identical, and neither is the public witness that can be given. Similarly, the very reasons that make this difficult are not all the same: the freedom of action in ‘free’ countries does not mean that it is truly recognised and may lead to contradictory attitudes. Some choose a position of affirming a strong identity, whereas others select a patient but not always well-understood dialogue. In other countries religious or cultural pressure on Christians does not mean that they are silenced, but rather that after many centuries they must face a painful path”.
The theme of Christian families in the Middle East is present in a significant number of the reports from the Circuli Minores, who aside from offering their solidarity, also warn that the flight of these families from the region would put an end to a millennia-long Christian presence.
The diversity of socio-cultural contexts and pastoral situations is also noted by the group whose rapporteur is Msgr. Francois-Xavier Dumortier, S.J. He underlines that this diversity requires an articulation of what is of a universal order and of a particular order, a strong common word able to respond to particular situations. In this respect the group proposes that the episcopal conferences hold a determined power to allow their pastors to be good Samaritans in their ecclesial service. The Cardinal also asks the Synod to facilitate pathways “for the family to live its vocation and its mission according to God’s plan and the teaching of the Church”, and to seek to provide “more coherence to the grouping of theological and canonical texts, that seem to be juxtaposed rather than linked together, so as to simplify their expression”.
In the reports from all groups, mention is made of the need for States to pay greater attention to the needs of families and above all to their weakest members, such as the elderly or disabled. Some express concern regarding so-called gender theory which, as Archbishop Durocher writes, “has developed within sociology and philosophy, in an attempt to analyse various human and social phenomena, and may enrich our understanding of the world. However, when these theories become an absolute … they lead to the imposition of a point of view that denies the relationship between sexual identity and the sexual beings we are in our bodies”.
In the Hispanic group, whose rapporteur is the Panamanian Cardinal Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan, notes among other issues “the challenge of the renewal of our Church”. “We have failed in ‘Christian formation’ and in ‘education in faith’, and this leads to marriage with many gaps and omissions. This cannot be said to be the family. And it is not simply a question of preparation as there are many couples who, without preparation, have been faithful and happy, and others who are well-prepared and have ended up separating”. The cardinal also speaks about the rupture in the unity between “love, sexuality and procreation”, and notes also a separation from its educational dimension. “The relationship between love, sexuality, marriage, family and the education of children has broken down”.
The Italian Synod Fathers, like many others, note their concern regarding the migratory phenomenon, which affects many families fleeing from war and poverty, and increasingly involves other families and the Church. The issue of bioethics is also prominent, especially among couples who are unable to have children. After reaffirming that the equal dignity of men and women has its roots in the Gospel, the Italian group, whose rapporteur is Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, highlights the need to condemn “the exploitation of child labour, child soldiers and the female body (by, for instance, prostitution, surrogacy, violence and murder, and rape as an act of war)”.
Finally, he warns of the need to affirm that the Church has a positive view of sexuality, as it is an expression of the “symphonic tension between eros and agape”….