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Day: October 16, 2015

Synod on the Family: Press Briefing Day 11

(Vatican Radio) Friday 16 Oct. Two fraternal delegates were guests at the daily press briefing for the Synod on the Family on Friday. Bishop Tim Thornton of the Anglican Communion is representing the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Patriarch Stephanos of Estonia is representing the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Click below to hear the report:

Bishop Thornton, speaking on the importance of forming good families today said “How can we encourage every individual to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? That’s what the focus for me has to be. We try and get every individual to understand what it means to be a disciple then they shape their family life, whatever that is, in what I think would be the right way and the goal.”
Thornton said that he thought one of the big issues the Synod delegates faced was the tension between local and universal. Some issues might be dealt with much better on the local level, there is therefore a tension between how much subsidiarity and how much of a universal framework is needed.
Patriarch Stephanos said that the Synod was a positive experience. He said that extraordinary work had been done and that many problems have been laid out. “The problems you face are not the different to the ones that we have, we are all searching,” he said. In his remarks he said that there were “no easy answers” and yet the Church must engage with difficult questions.
Responding to a question about the “penitential path” for the divorced and remarried and their admission to the Eucharist in the Orthodox Church, the Patriarch explained that there is only one Orthodox Church but that there are different expressions of the Church. He said that he noticed that the “human dimension of the sacraments” was being better understood at the Synod. “The Fathers are slowly coming to understand what we call ‘the economy of salvation.’ This means that for each there is a place and position in the economy of grace and hence the importance of mercy,” he said.
Cardinal Walter Kasper had proposed that the Church look towards the Eastern Orthodox Church to find a way of dealing with issues around the ban on admission to the Eucharist for the divorced and remarried.
Thornton said that the Anglican Communion still holds to the traditional understanding of marriage. He said that there was no neat line between the doctrinal and the pastoral and both need to be seen in a broader theological context. He also said that it was unfortunate that Instrumentum Laboris did not contain more of the historical context of marriage because marriage was not always in the domain of the Church; it came much later when married people came to the Church for a blessing.
It was reported at the briefing that the discussions in the assembly were much more emotional in the last two sessions of the Synod. The personal nature of the interventions arose from the fact that many of them were about actual pastoral cases. Some bishops read letters in the assembly that were written to them by people in their pastoral care who were hurting.
A number of topics were presented in the interventions. These include: procreation and contraception (the theology of Humane Vitae was spoken about); the changes made by Pope Francis to the annulment process; violence, incest and sexual abuse within families and the “martyrdom of silence”; the care of the elderly and their value in society; the formation of parents because they shape future generations, and how large corporations and economic issues put pressure on parents to work long hours which disrupt family life.
The Synod delegates had also heard in interventions that there were possibly three ways forward: to do nothing, to move towards the ‘penitential way’ outlined by Cardinal Walter Kasper or, stand firm and reaffirm the Church’s current position.
The Patriarch said that sometimes he was disappointed on how the media was reporting on the Synod. He said there was the tendency to look for scandal and not report the positive things that were being said. He said that divergent views were not scandalous but showed that the bishops really took their pastoral responsibility seriously and wanted to respond as best they could to God’s people.
Bishop Thornton added that he would have liked to see some more of the important issues – like migration and poverty – being spoken about. He said that questions around divorce and remarriage seemed to be the focus. 
Fr. Lombardi said that he had heard the word “accompaniment” many times at the Synod, “The Church needs to accompany individuals, couples and families.” He said that it was important, delegates stated, that families must be formed to accompany one another because, in doing so, they become “missionaries” for other families. He added that delegates had spoken of the importance of sexual intimacy related to the Eucharist. In the Eucharist Jesus says “This is my body given for you,” this is what married couples do for each other.
There will be no press briefing on the Synod until Monday afternoon. The delegates returned to work in their small groups on Friday afternoon and will continue to work in groups until Tuesday. 
(from Vatican Radio)…

Briefing: Canonization of St. Therese of Lisieux’s parents

(Vatican Radio)  The French Catholic Bishops Conference held a briefing in the Vatican’s press Office on Friday to illustrate the figures of Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux. The parents of the much-loved French saint will be canonized on Sunday October 18th during the ongoing Synod of Bishops on the family. Louis Martin and his wife Zélie will be the first-ever married couple with children to be canonized in the same ceremony. Pope Francis issued the decree approving their canonization on June the 27th during the Ordinary Consistory in the Vatican. In March, the Pope had recognized a miracle attributed to the French couple. Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, has described Louis and Zélie Martin as “an extraordinary witness of conjugal and family spirituality.”
Married in 1858, Louis and Zélie had nine children. Four died in infancy while the remaining five entered religious life. During their marriage, the couple was known to attend Mass daily, pray and fast, visit the elderly and the sick and welcome the poor into their home.
Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin will be canonized alongside two others: Italian Father Vincenzo Grossi, founder of the Institute of the Daughters of the Oratory and Spanish Sister Maria of the Immaculate Conception, Superior General of the Sisters of the Company of the Cross. 
The speakers at the briefing in the Vatican included Father Olivier Ruffray, Rector at the Lisieux Shrine and Father Romano Gambalunga, Postulator of the sainthood Cause for Louis and Zélie Martin. 
Listen to this report by Susy Hodges: 

(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope makes surprise visit to homeless shelter near Vatican

(Vatican Radio) On Thursday, Pope Francis made a surprise visit to the new Jesuit homeless shelter, ‘Gift of Mercy’, just around the corner from the Vatican.
All 30 guests at ‘Gift of Mercy’ (Dono di Misericordia), most of whom are Italian, were overjoyed to see the Holy Father and were eager to tell him their life stories and ask for his blessing. In his inimitably personal way, the Pope spoke to the men one by one and then asked to be given a tour of the shelter itself.
The Pope was welcomed by mons. Konrad Krajewski, Jesuit Superior General Fr Adolfo Nicolás and by several nuns from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, who run the shelter with the help of volunteers.
On 7th October, the homeless shelter was opened by the Society of Jesus, in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary. The Jesuits founded the shelter in response to the Pope’s recent call for religious institutions to offer more buildings to be used for the care of those in need.  
The shelter can accommodate up to 34 men each night, each of whom can stay for a maximum of 30 days, and is funded by the Papal Office of Charities.
With the addition of 34 beds at ‘Gift of Mercy’, the Vatican is now able to house 84 people who find themselves without a home. 
(from Vatican Radio)…

Step up the battle against hunger and malnutrition

Vatican City, 16 October 2015 (VIS) – On the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of the foundation of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Holy Father sent a message to the director general Jose Graziano da Silva.
Noting that a great number of our brothers and sisters still suffer from hunger and malnutrition in spite of the great efforts made to combat these problems, he condemns the underlying causes: an uneven distribution of resources and the lack of agricultural development. “We live in an age in which the unfettered pursuit of profit, the concentration of particular interests and the effects of unjust policies render less effective the actions taken by States or impede effective cooperation within the international community”. He adds that much remains to be done in this area.
The theme chosen for this year’s World Food Day – “Social protection and agriculture, breaking the cycle of poverty”, is an issue that affects two thirds of the world population, who lack even basic social protection. “This fact is made even more alarming by the fact that the majority of these people live in the most disadvantaged parts of countries where … the only means of survival is linked to scarce agricultural production, and small-scale fishing and animal husbandry. Indeed, the lack of social protection weighs most heavily on local farmers … and fishermen, forced to live in precarious conditions, as the fruit of their work depends largely on environmental conditions that are often outside their control, and they lack resources for facing poor harvests or for procuring the necessary technical tools. Paradoxically, even when production is abundant, they encounter serious difficulties linked to the transportation, sale and conservation of the fruits of their labour”.
Faced with this situations, “we cannot be satisfied with a generic appeal for cooperation or to the common good. Perhaps we must ask: is it still possible to conceive of a society in which the resources reside in the hands of the few, and the least privileged must make do with the leftovers? The answer cannot be limited to good intentions, but must consist rather in ‘social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues”, the Pope writes.
The most disadvantaged, due to the lack of social protection, “suffer the negative consequences of a persistent economic crisis or phenomena linked to corruption and poor governance, as well as climate changes”, and “ask for our support, to be able to look to the future with a minimum of hope”. However, “social protection cannot be limited to an increase in income, or be reduced to investment in means of subsistence for an improvement of agricultural production or the promotion of equitable economic development. It must be made concrete in that ‘social love’ that is the key to genuine development. … Social protection can foster in the most disadvantaged a capacity for resilience, to face and overcome difficulties”. For instance, he added, it is able to “support the family, whose members learn from the beginning what it means to share, to help each other, and to protect each other. Guaranteeing family life means promoting the economic growth of women, thus consolidating their role in society, as well as favouring care for the elderly and enabling the young to continue their scholastic and professional preparation”.
“The Church does not have the mission of directly dealing with such problems from a technical point of view. However, the human aspects of these situations cannot leave her indifferent”. He concludes, “May all people, in accordance with their own possibilities, give the best of themselves in a spirit of genuine service to others. In this effort, the work of the FAO will be fundamental if it has the necessary means for ensuring social protection in the framework of sustainable development and the support of those who live and work in agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing and forestry”….

Contributions to the Synod from the representatives of other Christian denominations

Vatican City, 16 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning, during the twelfth general congregation of the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, the Synod Fathers heard interventions by the fraternal delegates representing other Christian denominations. Rev. Dr. Walter Altmann, of the World Council of Churches Central Committee, said that the WCC has been speaking since its 2013 Assembly in Korea of a “’pilgrimage of justice and peace’, underlining that we are together on a faith journey and are deeply committed to justice and peace as signs of God’s reign to come. This commitment to express the values of God’s reign as justice and peace is very significant for all those who live together in different types of family life. That is the first and innermost circle of our life together as we seek to bring fairness and reconciliation. From my own continent of Latin America, and from my experience as Moderator of the WCC, I know how many women and men, and not the least children, need that the church be a fellowship of inclusion and healing, recognising our differences in the bond of love. The openness required for change, and for new commitment to God’s call today, should be a mark of our pilgrimage as a common journey of the churches”. The Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette of the Coptic Orthodox Church spoke about the pastoral mission of his Church towards persons with homosexual tendencies: that is, to “explain in a tender, tolerant and convincing way that homosexuality is a great sin forbidden by God according to the Holy Scriptures. … Consequently, the Church’s main pastoral mission is to encourage such people to repentance guiding them to lead a pure life. … If a married party is homosexual – forcing the other party into intercourses against the natural use – the church should not force the innocent party to continue in a sexual marital relation with him/her, because this damages the innocent party physically, physiologically and socially”. Our Church allows divorce in cases of adultery and in cases of what we call ‘legal adultery’; which is anything that is counted as adultery like: homosexuality, intercourse against natural use, urging or compelling an innocent party into forbidden relations for materialistic gain or sexual exchange”. Metropolitan Iosif of the Patriarchate of All Romania described the family as “the primary cell of the Church. … All family characteristics derive from its Eucharistic structure, based essentially on forgiveness nurtured by humility, which favours the growth of mutual love and transforms both the person and Christian life in the short and the long term. The divine greatness of marriage resides in the fact that in marriage we find a living representation of the union of the Word with human nature”. The Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley of the Baptist World Alliance remarked that “There is no perfect family and no perfect marriage. In our broken world, families are not only a source of great blessing, they can also be a source of great harm. … This is the pastoral reality: families have their blessings and their dysfunctions. Amidst such experiences people yearn for mercy”. Therefore, he affirmed, Hence, in Baptist hymnology the theme of Jesus as friend is important. “Hymns … express for us the presence of God in the midst of our imperfections and struggles. They remind us of the one who in his vocation of suffering servant enters our woundedness. This is the one who invites sinners to sit at his table; the one who is ‘gentle and humble in heart, in whom we find rest for our souls’; the one to whom we pray in all confidence, ‘Lord, have mercy’”. Archbishop Yostinos Boulos Safar of Zahle and Bekaa commented on the principle, in the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, of economy. “This principle finds in the sacrament of the Eucharist a medicine for wounded souls, as well as a help for those who wish to recover their relationship with the Lord”. He noted that this sacrament, “which is salvific in effect”, should not be withheld as “part of the norms of punishment, other than in certain exceptional cases. The Eucharist is not a prize or compensation, but the means by which the Lord Jesus cures our weaknesses and attracts us towards Him”. Metropolitan Stephanos of Tallin and all Estonia, observed that “today marriage and family have changed direction. In a number of countries, new legislation is being enacted regarding this issue. These mutations in the family are a challenge to us. … The law confirms, without doubt, a new social situation but for the Church, the sacrament of marriage, it is hoped, is not revealed as a mere institution but first and foremost, it is hoped, as a mystery of life. Marriage makes sense only in relation to faith in Christ, in the Gospel, in the certainty that the actions of Christ continue in the Gospel, that is, in the Sacraments. Our first task is therefore to evangelise”. Perhaps, he added, it would be useful to help the “young and not so young, often uncertain, sometimes psychologically unwell, to adopt a different outlook, to free themselves from too symbiotic a relationship, to become truly responsible for each other, in the hope, at times, of already being able to experience the resurrection in the glory of the body”. The fraternal delegate Tim Macquiban, director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office of Rome, remarked that “Sometimes in this Synod we seem to have concentrated on one form of family, of parents and children, as defined through sacramental marriage and its vocation. For some this fails to take account on the different ways many people experience different forms of family in our various contexts and cultures. … Those who are single, with or without children, or in civil partnerships or co-habiting relationships, and even those within marriages conducted in church and childless can easily feel excluded. The Church is challenged to accept that it can … add to these difficulties with such a stress on ‘the Gospel of the Family’”. Bishop emeritus Ndanganeni Petrus Phaswana of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa comments that “Frequently, politics, religion and culture are instrumentalised and used to divide people and nations. This has led to growing alienation and disunity. In the midst of this isolation, it is our task as Churches to proclaim and witness that God does not call us to isolation, but, rather, to life in communion with Christ and with one another”. He also spoke about the great commitment on the part of both Catholics and Lutherans in promoting Christian unity through theological dialogue, noting that “we should therefore remain sensitive to how our theological discussions support individual Christians in the challenges and sorrows facing them in their everyday lives”. The Right Rev. Timothy Thornton of the Anglican Communion commented that the first part of the Instrumentum Laboris “is too focused on the negative aspects of family life”, adding that “there is much joy in families and family life and much to celebrate”. He emphasised that “All families change. … Change is a key part of Christian faith. Every day we are called to be converted to Christ, to turn away from sin and turn to God. Every day we open ourselves to the possibility of transformation. That is why all Christians are full of joy and hope every day”. The fraternal delegate of the Disciples of Christ, Dr. Robert K. Welsh, focused on three brief reflections. “First, how do we understand marriage and family life today? What can we do to respond to the growing number of divorces and the impact on the children in those families? These are urgent issues before all Christians, and all societies, that represent major theological, practical, and pastoral challenges”. Secondly, with regard to “mixed marriages”, he observed that in the Instrumentum Laboris, “mixed marriages are only named in the context of presenting problems; for example, at the pastoral level of religious education of children and in the relation to liturgical life. My hope is that this Synod might also identify ‘mixed marriages’ in a more positive and hopeful context as ‘great opportunities’ for witnessing to God’s gift of oneness in Christ and God’s love for all persons, especially for those marriages between persons baptised as Christians”. Finally, he focused on the challenge of facing the difficulties that interreligious or interdenominational families experience every day. “My regret continues to be that, when I attend Mass with my grandson, I am not allowed to partake of the Eucharist. It is personal, and it is painful”….