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Day: October 23, 2015

Irish Church must respond better to challenges of family life

(Vatican Radio) How far has the Irish Church come in responding to the challenges facing families today? What have its leaders learnt from the same-sex marriage referendum earlier this year?  What response are they continuing to provide for families devastated by clerical abuse?
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh is attending his first Synod of bishops and is extremely impressed by the wealth of positive pastoral initiatives he’s been hearing from bishops in other parts of the globe. As his country starts planning for the World Meeting of Families in three years’ time, he told Philippa Hitchen that the Church in Ireland has a long way to go in providing adequate and effective responses to families in all kinds of need….

Archbishop Martin says he’s been very struck by the way Pope Francis has been modelling the kind of attentive listening to bishops throughout the three week meeting. The strength of the Synod, he says, is being able to hear one another and inside the Synod Hall or small groups there have been strong opinions “but also a respectful listening”, looking for synergies and convergence….
During the recent same-sex marriage campaign, the archbishop says Church leaders had to realise they were not the only voice, or even the dominant voice in society, so they had to rethink their attitude to pastoral accompaniment….
Archbishop Martin says he’s been struck by the ideas put forward by bishops in the Philippines and elsewhere, especially in small Christian communities where families support one another in times of need. He compares these to the “paltry efforts I’ve taken so far in my own diocese” where he says he’ll be looking to do much more at parish and diocesan level…
Looking ahead to the World Meeting of Families, he says it’s “a goal, a target date” as he begins to devise new programmes and new ways of reaching out, especially to lapsed Catholics who’ve drifted away from the Church and are no longer bringing up their children in the faith…
During the Synod, Archbishop chose to speak about the need to support families struggling with the effects of sexual abuse, not just at the hands of the clergy but also by family members themselves….
(from Vatican Radio)…

Synod of bishops fine-tuning final document on family life

(Vatican Radio) With just two days to go until the end of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, participants on Friday gave their reactions to a draft of the final document which is now being fine-tuned and will be voted on by the bishops on Saturday. At a press conference following the morning session, Fr Federico Lombardi was joined by Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana, Canadian Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix of Quebec and Belgian Archbishop Lucas Van Looy of Ghent to talk about their hopes for the outcome of the three-week meeting. Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report: 

Long days and sleepless nights – that’s how Cardinal Turkson characterised the work of the drafting committee, currently trying to integrate over 1,350 proposals for changes to the original working document put forward by the Synod’s small groups. On top of that, there were over 50 further comments made in the Synod Hall on Friday on subjects ranging from biblical quotations, to pastoral formation to the crucial question of the relationship between the Church’s moral law and the individual’s right to follow his or her own conscience. Is it possible to integrate so many differing perspectives without watering down the contents of the final document, journalists wanted to know? Will the substance of the debate on key issues really be reflected, or must it be sacrificed to the need for consensus that can be accepted by all? Cardinal Lacroix noted the final Synod document is not a legislative text so it doesn’t have to reflect unanimity among the Church leaders – on the contrary, he said, differences of opinion reflect a healthy engagement with the difficult issues under discussion. Among them are the ever-present questions of how to help divorced and remarried couples be reintegrated into the life of the Church and how to approach the issue of homosexuality, which some Synod fathers suggest has not been adequately dealt with at this meeting. Not so, said Cardinal Turkson, revealing that in his small group some bishops and cardinals themselves had shared experiences of gay members of their families. The cardinal also reiterated the view of another Ghanaian participant who told journalists that attitudes in Africa on this issue are changing, faster than they are in other parts of the world. All three participants pointed to the important experience of synodality, as outlined in the Pope’s own words, allowing bishops in the different parts of the globe greater freedom to exercise leadership, while allowing the Pope to draw on the wealth of local expertise and experience. Archbishop Van Looy said another key word of this Synod is tenderness, heralding a new attitude of the Church to stop judging and start journeying with people in whatever situation they may find themselves. While it’s vital to support families who do live up to Church teaching, Cardinal Lacroix said there is no such thing as the perfect family and the Church must remain close to all those looking for God’s grace in times of struggle and need. (from Vatican Radio)…

Synod: Ugandan bishops focus on vocation and mission of family

(Vatican Radio) Amongst the bishops participating in the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family is Bishop Joseph Antony Zziwa of Kiyinda-Mitayana and Vice President of the Ugandan Episcopal Conference.
He tells Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni how the Church in Uganda prepared for the Synod focusing carefully on its theme and of how he hopes the final document will reflect that theme of vocation and mission of the family in contemporary society.
Listen to the interview : 

Bishop Zziwa says this is the third Ordinary Synod he has attended since becoming a bishop, and as for every Synod his Church and his country were involved in a long time of preparation beforehand.
“We receive the lineamenta – the questionnaires – from Rome, and as a Country and as a Bishops’ Conference, we send those questions to the dioceses, and they send them to the grass roots to be able to answer the questions. Then those questionnaires are sent back to the Secretariat and the bishops compile the answers and send them back to Rome. After which the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops writes the “instrumentum laboris: the working document”.
Bishop Zziwa points out that the theme – or title – of this Synod on the Family is “The vocation and the mission of the family in the church and in the contemporary world”.
He says preparations focused on this theme and all the deliberations of the Ugandan bishops have been in answer to the theme, and he points out that just like in any other vocation, family and marriage are a rich vocation indeed.
“We look at the richness of family in Africa. Beginning with the social point of view, the traditional point of view – there is a lot of richness” which is impossible to measure he says.
“We look at the Catholic family, we begin from the Scriptures, we look at the teachings of the Church and how we have lived this in Uganda” he says.
And both here in Rome and back home before the Synod began, Bishop Zziwa highlights how the Ugandan bishops have placed much emphasis the richness and the joy of the family.
And as time goes on, he says, “we also look at some of the challenges, issues or problems”.
 “That has been our approach, it has stayed the same, and as we conclude, that has been our vision at the Synod” he says.
Bishop Zziwa points out that the Synod has been a concerted body in the Church since 1965 during  which bishops meet, discuss and offer propositions that are ultimately handed over to the Pope.
He recalls previous Synods and of how the Apostolic Exhortation written by Pope Benedict XVI, “Africae Munus”,  after the Synod for Africa has become a kind of a “Magna Carta” for the Church in our times and of how it continues to be appreciated by many African Catholics.
And returning to the theme of ‘vocation’, Bishop Zziwa recalls how he personally began his own vocation as a priest with great joy and of how he was accompanied and helped by his formators to keep the joy in his vocation. 
Marriage too is a vocation he says, and so we must see how we can accompany married couples in their vocation.
They will inevitably encounter problems and challenges, Bishop Zziwa points out, but “they must begin from the joys and the goodness of a vocation”.

(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope: Times change and Christians must change continuously

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis said on Friday (23rd October) that the times are changing and we Christians must change continuously, freely but within the truth of the faith. He urged Christians to look at the signs of the times and warned them against succumbing to the comfort of conformity. The Pope’s remarks came during his homily at the morning Mass celebrated at the Santa Marta residence.
Reading the signs of the times
Taking his cue from the reading of St Paul’s letter to the Romans, Pope Francis’s homily reflected on the discernment that the Church needs to employ whilst looking at the signs of the times and doing what Christ wants. He noted how St Paul’s preaching stressed the freedom which has saved us from sin whilst Christ himself spoke of reading the signs of the times. God set us free, the Pope explained, and in order to have this freedom, we must open ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit and clearly understand what is happening within and around us through discernment.
“We have this freedom to judge whatever is happening around us.  But in order to judge, we must have a good knowledge of that is happening around us.  And how can we do this?  How can we do this, which the Church calls ‘recognizing the signs of the times?’ Times are changing.  And it’s precisely Christian wisdom that recognizes these changes, recognizes the changing times and recognizes the signs of the times. What one thing and another thing means. And do this freely, without fear.” 
Pope Francis conceded that is this is not an easy thing to do on account of the external conditioning that pressures Christians as well, encouraging many of them to seek comfort in doing nothing. 
“This is something that we usually don’t do: we stick with conformity, we reassure ourselves with (words like) ‘they told us, I heard, people said they read….’ In this way we are reassured.  But what is the truth?  What is the message that the Lord wants to give me with this sign of the times?  First of all, in order to understand the signs of the times we need silence: to be silent and observe. And afterwards we need to reflect within ourselves. One example: why are there so many wars nowadays?  Why did something happen? And pray… silence, reflection and prayer.  It’s only in this way that we can understand the signs of the times, what Jesus wants to tell us.”
Freedom within the truth of the Gospel
Understanding the signs of the times, noted the Pope, should not be confined to an elite cultural group. He recalled how Jesus didn’t tell us to look at how the professors, the doctors and the intellectuals do things but instead urged us to look at the farm labourer who knows how to “separate the wheat from the chaff.”
“Times are changing and we Christians must change continuously. We must change whilst remaining fixed to our faith in Jesus Christ, fixed to the truth of the Gospel but we must adapt our attitude continuously according to the signs of the times. We are free. We are free thanks to the gift of freedom given to us by Jesus Christ. But our job is to look at what is happening within us, discern our feelings, our thoughts and what is happening around us and discern the signs of the times – through silence, reflection and prayer.” 
(from Vatican Radio)…