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Day: October 24, 2015

Pope Francis addresses Synod of Bishops at conclusion

(Vatican Radio) 24 Oct.  On Saturday evening the Synod on the Family came to a close when the Synod Fathers voted paragraph by paragraph on the final text. At the end of the vote the text was presented to the Holy Father. All 94 points received the required two-thirds majority vote.
Click below to listen to the report by Fr. Russell Pollitt SJ

General Secretary of the Synod, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldiserri, thanked the Holy Father and all the Synod Fathers as well as the auditors, experts, support personnel and the media.
Pope Francis then delivered his closing address. He too begun by thanking all those involved in Synod. The Holy Father said now that the Synod has come to an end he asks “What will it mean for the Church to conclude this Synod devoted to the family?” He said that the Synod was not about settling issues but attempting to see them in the light of the Gospel and the Church’s tradition and two thousand year history. The Pope said that it was about interpreting reality through God’s eyes.
He said that it was about making clear that the Church is a Church of the poor in spirit and of sinners seeking forgiveness. The Holy Father said that it was about trying to “broaden horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints”. He went on to say that in the course of the Synod different viewpoints were freely expressed – he added “and at times, unfortunately, not entirely in well-meaning ways” – that led to a rich and lively dialogue “[offering] a vivid image of the Church which does not simply ‘rubberstamp’, but draws from the sources of her faith living waters to freshly parched hearts.” 
He said that the Synod had heard what is normal for one bishop is not for another, what is considered a violation of a right in once society is an evident and inviolable rule in another,” depending on contexts. He said that at the conclusion of Vatican II the Church spoke about inculturation as the “intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity, and the taking root of Christianity in the various human cultures.” He said that inculturation does not weaken true values, but demonstrates their true strength and authenticity “since they adapt without changing; indeed they quietly and gradually transform the different cultures.”
The Holy Father said that without falling into relativism or demonising others the Synod sought to embrace, fully and courageously, the goodness and mercy of God who transcends our every human reckonings and desires.
Quoting Benedict XVI, Pope Francis said “Mercy is indeed the central nucleus of the Gospel message”. The Holy Father said that many of the delegates felt the working of the Holy Spirit who is “the real protagonist and guide of the Synod.” To conclude the Synod, he said, is to “return to our true ‘journeying together’ in bringing to every part of the world, every diocese, to every community and every situation, the light of the Gospel, the embrace of the Church and the support of God’s mercy!”
Below, please find the official English translation of the Holy Father’s address:
Dear Beatitudes, Eminences and Excellencies, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like first of all to thank the Lord, who has guided our synodal process in these years by his Holy Spirit, whose support is never lacking to the Church.
My heartfelt thanks go to Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, its Under-Secretary, and, together with them, the Relator, Cardinal Peter Erdő, and the Special Secretary, Archbishop Bruno Forte, the Delegate Presidents, the writers, consultors and translators, and all those who have worked tirelessly and with total dedication to the Church: My deepest thanks!
I likewise thank all of you, dear Synod Fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors and Assessors, parish priests and families, for your active and fruitful participation.
And I thank all those unnamed men and women who contributed generously to the labours of this Synod by quietly working behind the scenes.
Be assured of my prayers, that the Lord will reward all of you with his abundant gifts of grace!
As I followed the labours of the Synod, I asked myself: What will it mean for the Church to conclude this Synod devoted to the family?
Certainly, the Synod was not about settling all the issues having to do with the family, but rather attempting to see them in the light of the Gospel and the Church’s tradition and two-thousand-year history, bringing the joy of hope without falling into a facile repetition of what is obvious or has already been said.
Surely it was not about finding exhaustive solutions for all the difficulties and uncertainties which challenge and threaten the family, but rather about seeing these difficulties and uncertainties in the light of the Faith, carefully studying them and confronting them fearlessly, without burying our heads in the sand.
It was about urging everyone to appreciate the importance of the institution of the family and of marriage between a man and a woman, based on unity and indissolubility, and valuing it as the fundamental basis of society and human life.
It was about listening to and making heard the voices of the families and the Church’s pastors, who came to Rome bearing on their shoulders the burdens and the hopes, the riches and the challenges of families throughout the world.
It was about showing the vitality of the Catholic Church, which is not afraid to stir dulled consciences or to soil her hands with lively and frank discussions about the family.
It was about trying to view and interpret realities, today’s realities, through God’s eyes, so as to kindle the flame of faith and enlighten people’s hearts in times marked by discouragement, social, economic and moral crisis, and growing pessimism.
It was about bearing witness to everyone that, for the Church, the Gospel continues to be a vital source of eternal newness, against all those who would “indoctrinate” it in dead stones to be hurled at others.
It was also about laying bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families.
It was about making clear that the Church is a Church of the poor in spirit and of sinners seeking forgiveness, not simply of the righteous and the holy, but rather of those who are righteous and holy precisely when they feel themselves poor sinners.
It was about trying to open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints, so as to defend and spread the freedom of the children of God, and to transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible.
In the course of this Synod, the different opinions which were freely expressed – and at times, unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning ways – certainly led to a rich and lively dialogue; they offered a vivid image of a Church which does not simply “rubberstamp”, but draws from the sources of her faith living waters to refresh parched hearts. (1)
And – apart from dogmatic questions clearly defined by the Church’s Magisterium – we have also seen that what seems normal for a bishop on one continent, is considered strange and almost scandalous for a bishop from another; what is considered a violation of a right in one society is an evident and inviolable rule in another; what for some is freedom of conscience is for others simply confusion. Cultures are in fact quite diverse, and each general principle needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied. (2) The 1985 Synod, which celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, spoke of inculturation as “the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity, and the taking root of Christianity in the various human cultures”. (3) Inculturation does not weaken true values, but demonstrates their true strength and authenticity, since they adapt without changing; indeed they quietly and gradually transform the different cultures. (4)
We have seen, also by the richness of our diversity, that the same challenge is ever before us: that of proclaiming the Gospel to the men and women of today, and defending the family from all ideological and individualistic assaults.
And without ever falling into the danger of relativism or of demonizing others, we sought to embrace, fully and courageously, the goodness and mercy of God who transcends our every human reckoning and desires only that “all be saved” (cf. 1 Tm 2:4). In this way we wished to experience this Synod in the context of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy which the Church is called to celebrated.
Dear Brothers,
The Synod experience also made us better realize that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness. This is in no way to detract from the importance of formulae, laws and divine commandments, but rather to exalt the greatness of the true God, who does not treat us according to our merits or even according to our works but solely according to the boundless generosity of his Mercy (cf. Rom 3:21-30; Ps 129; Lk 11:37-54). It does have to do with overcoming the recurring temptations of the elder brother (cf. Lk 15:25-32) and the jealous labourers (cf. Mt 20:1-16). Indeed, it means upholding all the more the laws and commandments which were made for man and not vice versa (cf. Mk 2:27).
In this sense, the necessary human repentance, works and efforts take on a deeper meaning, not as the price of that salvation freely won for us by Christ on the cross, but as a response to the One who loved us first and saved us at the cost of his innocent blood, while we were still sinners (cf. Rom 5:6).
The Church’s first duty 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 (cf. Jn 12:44-50).
Blessed Paul VI expressed this eloquently: “”We can imagine, then, that each of our sins, our attempts to turn our back on God, kindles in him a more intense flame of love, a desire to bring us back to himself and to his saving plan… God, in Christ, shows himself to be infinitely good… God is good. Not only in himself; God is – let us say it with tears – good for us. He loves us, he seeks us out, he thinks of us, he knows us, he touches our hearts us and he waits for us. He will be – so to say – delighted on the day when we return and say: ‘Lord, in your goodness, forgive me. Thus our repentance becomes God’s joy”. (5)
Saint John Paul II also stated that: “the Church lives an authentic life when she professes and proclaims mercy… and when she brings people close to the sources of the Saviour’s mercy, of which she is the trustee and dispenser”. (6)
Benedict XVI, too, said: “Mercy is indeed the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God… May all that the Church says and does manifest the mercy God feels for mankind. When the Church has to recall an unrecognized truth, or a betrayed good, she always does so impelled by merciful love, so that men may have life and have it abundantly (cf. Jn 10:10)”. (7)
In light of all this, and thanks to this time of grace which the Church has experienced in discussing the family, we feel mutually enriched. Many of us have felt the working of the Holy Spirit who is the real protagonist and guide of the Synod. For all of us, the word “family” has a new resonance, so much so that the word itself already evokes the richness of the family’s vocation and the significance of the labours of the Synod. (8)
In effect, for the Church to conclude the Synod means to return to our true “journeying together” in bringing to every part of the world, to every diocese, to every community and every situation, the light of the Gospel, the embrace of the Church and the support of God’s mercy!
Thank you!
(1) Cf. Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina on the Centenary of its Faculty of Theology, 3 March 2015.
(2) Cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, Fede e cultura alla luce della Bibbia. Atti della Sessione plenaria 1979 della Pontificia Commissione Biblica, LDC, Leumann, 1981; SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Gaudium et Spes, 44.
(3) Final Relatio (7 December 1985), L’Osservatore Romano, 10 December 1985, 7.
(4) “In virtue of her pastoral mission, the Church must remain ever attentive to historical changes and to the development of new ways of thinking. Not, of course, to submit to them, but rather to surmount obstacles standing in the way of accepting her counsels and directives” (Interview with Cardinal Georges Cottier, in La Civiltà Cattolica 3963-3964, 8 August 2015, p. 272).
(5) Homily, 23 June 1968: Insegnamenti VI (1968), 1177-1178.
(6) Dives in Misericordia, 13. He also said: “In the paschal mystery… God appears to us as he is: a tender-hearted Father, who does not give up in the face of his childrens’ ingratitude and is always ready to forgive (JOHN PAUL II, Regina Coeli, 23 April 1995: Insegnamenti XVIII, 1 [1995], 1035). So too he described resistance to mercy: “The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy. The word and the concept of ‘mercy’ seem to cause uneasiness…” (Dives in Misericordia [30 November 1980] 2).
(7) Regina Coeli, 30 March 2008: Insegnamenti IV, 1 (2008), 489-490. Speaking of the power of mercy, he stated: “it is mercy that sets a limit to evil. In it is expressed God’s special nature – his holiness, the power of truth and of love” (Homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, 15 April 2007: Insegnamenti III, 1 [2007], 667).
(8) An acrostic look at the word “family” [Italian: “famiglia”] can help us summarize the Church’s mission as the task of: Forming new generations to experience love seriously, not as an individualistic search for a pleasure then to be discarded, and to believe once again in true, fruitful and lasting love as the sole way of emerging from ourselves and being open to others, leaving loneliness behind, living according to God’s will, finding fulfilment, realizing that marriage is “an experience which reveals God’s love, defending the sacredness of life, every life, defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously” (Homily for the Opening Mass of the Synod, 4 October 2015: L’Osservatore Romano, 5-6 October 2015, p. 7) and, furthermore, enhancing marriage preparation as a means of providing a deeper understanding of the Christian meaning of the sacrament of Matrimony; Approaching others, since a Church closed in on herself is a dead Church, while a Church which does leave her own precincts behind in order to seek, embrace and lead others to Christ is a Church which betrays her very mission and calling; Manifesting and bringing God’s mercy to families in need; to the abandoned, to the neglected elderly, to children pained by the separation of their parents, to poor families struggling to survive, to sinners knocking on our doors and those who are far away, to the differently able, to all those hurting in soul and body, and to couples torn by grief, sickness, death or persecution; Illuminating consciences often assailed by harmful and subtle dynamics which even attempt to replace God the Creator, dynamics which must be unmasked and resisted in full respect for the dignity of each person; Gaining and humbly rebuilding trust in the Church, which has been gravely weakened as a result of the conduct and sins of her children – sadly, the counter-witness of scandals committed in the Church by some clerics have damaged her credibility and obscured the brightness of her saving message; Labouring intensely to sustain and encourage those many strong and faithful families which, in the midst of their daily struggles, continue to give a great witness of fidelity to the Church’s teachings and the Lord’s commandments; Inventing renewed programmes of pastoral care for the family based on the Gospel and respectful of cultural differences, pastoral care which is capable of communicating the Good News in an attractive and positive manner and helping banish from young hearts the fear of making definitive commitments, pastoral care which is particularly attentive to children, who are the real victims of broken families, pastoral care which is innovative and provides a suitable preparation for the sacrament of Matrimony, rather than so many programmes which seem more of a formality than training for a lifelong commitment; Aiming to love unconditionally all families, particularly those experiencing difficulties, since no family should feel alone or excluded from the Church’s loving embrace, and the real scandal is a fear of love and of showing that love concretely.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Synod on the Family: Press Briefing Day 17

(Vatican Radio)  Saturday October 24. “It is not black and white,” Cardinal Christoph Schoborn said on Saturday at the last of the daily briefings of the Synod on the Family.
Also present with him at the briefing were Brazilian Cardinal, Raymundo Damasceno, and the Prior General of the Little Brothers of Jesus, Hervé Janson, – the only lay delegate at the Synod with the right to vote.
Listen to the report by Fr. Russell Pollitt, SJ:

Cardinal Damasceno told the press that what caught his attention most was its methodology.  It was different from previous Synods because it gave greater priority to small group work.  He said that this allowed for greater participation by all delegates.
Cardinal Schoborn said that the new methodology was the strength of the Synod and that it was true progress after 50 years.
Cardinal Schoborn went on to say that the issue of the admission to the Eucharist of the divorced and civilly remarried was given great attention at the Synod.
He said, however, that the key word is discernment because “every case is different, it is not black and white”. He said that the final text refers to the matter obliquely; it gives criteria to discern various situations so that the Church can accompany people.
Damasceno said that mercy is the theme of the entire document. He said the Church’s concern is to include all people in its ecclesial community.
Schoborn went on to say that some people may be disappointed because homosexuality was addressed in the text, but only in the context of a situation within Christian families in which there is a gay member.
Janson was asked why as a non-bishop, non-cleric – a lay person – he was given permission to be the only voting lay person at the Synod and that religious women were given no votes.
He said that he did not know but that he had considered giving up his vote to a religious woman but in the end did not do so.
Schoborn said towards the end of the briefing that there is also a paragraph in the document that addresses the responsibility which governments have to favor family life. This is a clear word of protest to emerging countries against political and financial circumstances which are opposed to the family.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Synod’s final document focuses on discernment in familiy life

(Vatican Radio) The Synod of Bishops on the Family completed its final working day on Saturday, as bishops voted on a final document and approved a statement on families affected by conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and Ukraine.
Philippa Hitchen has been following the different stages of the meeting and talking to many of the bishops, religious and lay people who’ve taken part in the discussions. She reports on the atmosphere inside the hall as the final Synod document was presented to participants….

It’s hard to describe the mix of emotions that washed around the Synod Hall on Saturday at the close of this three week meeting. Elation, exhaustion, incredulity and relief were certainly among the reactions I heard from Synod Fathers as they worked their way painstakingly through all 94 points of their lengthy final text.  Surprisingly similar, I thought, to that indescribable blend of emotions that most mothers experience as they give birth to a new life.  
There’s no denying there have been labour pains over the past weeks here, as tensions surfaced and fears were expressed, both in public and on the pages of letters sent to the Pope and members of the organizing committee. In the small groups and in the open debates, strong words and provocative language has been bandied around, both by those seeking some new developments in Church teaching and by those who resist any openings towards people in so–called irregular situations of cohabitation, remarriage or same-sex relationships.
Yet the final document has been welcomed by most as a carefully crafted work of art which seeks to balance the very different views and cultural perspectives of all Synod participants. Rather than producing any groundbreaking theological developments, it showcases a new, more inclusive way of working, which began with the questionnaires sent out to families around the world and concluded with the intense small group discussions inside the Synod Hall.
Inevitably, the more open, frank discussions of difficult issues, encouraged by Pope Francis at the start of the 2014 Synod, has required a new methodology to find agreement acceptable to all sides, without settling for a lowest common denominator. The key word in this process – unsurprisingly under a Jesuit Pope – is discernment, or the ability to listen, learn and respond to personal stories. Starting from the bible, the catechism and the teaching of popes past and present, pastors are encouraged to open doors and engage with every person and every family, not judging or condemning, but welcoming and caring for each individual need.
While the joys and sorrows of family life have been the main focus of discussions, the bishops have really been learning a new way of relating to each other in the family of the Church. Half a century on from establishment of the Synod of bishops, these Church leaders are moving towards a new way of collaborating more closely with each other and with the pope, respecting differences, while at the same time realizing the value of diversity.
You could call it a growing up and coming of age of that synodality that was born during the Second Vatican Council. Few of those Council Fathers are around today to witness the joy all parents feel as they watch their children mature and make their way in the world. But just as the document born during this Synod stresses the role of each generation in nurturing and handing on the faith, so today’s Synod Fathers will be looking back with gratitude as they strive to respond more effectively to the challenges facing the Church in the contemporary world.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Telegram of condolences for the accident at Puisseguin

Vatican City, 24 October 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin has sent a telegram of condolences on behalf of the Holy Father to Archbishop Jean-Pierre Richard of Bordeaux, France, following the road accident that took place at Puisseguin involving a truck and a bus carrying elderly people, claiming 43 victims. Pope Francis joins in prayer in the suffering of the bereaved families, and commends the victims to God’s mercy so that He may welcome them in His light. He expresses his spiritual closeness to the injured and to the families of those involved, and to the rescue services. As a pledge of consolation the Holy Father offers his special apostolic blessing to all those affected by the tragedy”….

Synod: an experience of grace, communion, collegiality and service, says the bishop of Bilbao

Vatican City, 24 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning Bishop Mario Iceta Gavicagogeascoa of Bilbao, Spain, pronounced the final meditation before the Synod Fathers participating in the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, which will close tomorrow, Sunday 25 October, with a solemn Mass to be celebrated by the Holy Father in St. Peter’s Basilica. “We are concluding the work of the Synod as an experience of grace, communion, collegiality and service”, said the prelate. “We have asked for the gift of the Holy Spirit and we wished for Him to guide our work. The Holy Father affirmed at the beginning of this assembly that the Synod can be a space for the action of the Holy Spirit only if we clothe ourselves in apostolic courage, evangelical humility and trustful prayer. Therefore, faced with the decisions that we must take in our episcopal ministry, the passage of the decision to bring Matthew into the apostolic college comes to mind. “They prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen”. This is our method: show us what You want, let us know Your will. Immersed in prayer, asking God to show us the way, so we can see what is His plan and not our own, so we can see the paths we must travel to accompany families in fidelity to the vocation to which they have been called”. “Along with prayer, we must remember the need for evangelical humility so as to know God’s will. ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children’. … As the Book of Proverbs tells us, ‘When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom’. And St. Teresa of Avila, the fifth centenary of whose birth we have just celebrated, wisely tells us that to proceed in humility is to go towards the truth”. “This prayerful life, this evangelical humility, will allow us to act with apostolic courage, the parrhesia St. Paul tells us about, with our eyes on Christ and serving the families of this world with love for Him, enlightening their path with the Word of God and the living Tradition of the Church, supporting and accompanying them in joys and sorrows, so that they may fully live the covenant of love which dispels darkness, overcomes loneliness and individualism, recreates humanity, generates life and hope, welcomes and heals what appears lost, and builds up the Church and the world”. “I conclude today, Saturday, by invoking the maternal intercession of Our Lady. Mothers are those who transform a house into a home. She ensures that the Church is not merely a Temple but also a home, a warm and familiar place of welcome and mercy. We turn to her this morning. She is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, by Whom she conceived virginally. We welcome this morning under her protection. In Her we learn how to receive the gift of God, the Holy Spirit, Love in Person, that enlightens us and helps us fulfil the task that has been entrusted to us today”….