Pope Francis address to European Parliament at Strasbourg

Francis at Strasbourg

Mr President and Vice Presidents,

Members of the European Parliament,

All associated with the work of this Institution,

Dear Friends,

I thank you for inviting me to address this institution which is fundamental to the life of the European Union, and for giving me this opportunity to speak, through you, to the more than five hundred million citizens whom you represent in the twenty-eight Member States.  I am especially grateful to you, Mr President, for your warm words of welcome in the name of the entire assembly.

My visit comes more than a quarter of a century after that of Pope John Paul II.  Since then, much has changed throughout Europe and the world as a whole.  The opposing blocs which then divided the continent in two no longer exist, and gradually the hope is being realized that “Europe, endowed with sovereign and free institutions, will one day reach the full dimensions that geography, and even more, history have given it”.[1]

As the European Union has expanded, the world itself has become more complex and ever changing; increasingly interconnected and global, it has, as a consequence, become less and less “Eurocentric”.  Despite a larger and stronger Union, Europe seems to give the impression of being somewhat elderly and haggard, feeling less and less a protagonist in a world which frequently regards it with aloofness, mistrust and even, at times, suspicion.

In addressing you today, I would like, as a pastor, to offer a message of hope and encouragement to all the citizens of Europe.

It is a message of hope, based on the confidence that our problems can become powerful forces for unity in working to overcome all those fears which Europe – together with the entire world – is presently experiencing.  It is a message of hope in the Lord, who turns evil into good and death into life.

It is a message of encouragement to return to the firm conviction of the founders of the European Union, who envisioned a future based on the capacity to work together in bridging divisions and in fostering peace and fellowship between all the peoples of this continent.  At the heart of this ambitious political project was confidence in man, not so much as a citizen or an economic agent, but in man, in men and women as persons endowed with transcendent dignity.

I feel bound to stress the close bond between these two words: “dignity” and “transcendent”.

“Dignity” was the pivotal concept in the process of rebuilding which followed the Second World War.  Our recent past has been marked by the concern to protect human dignity, in constrast to the manifold instances of violence and discrimination which, even in Europe, took place in the course of the centuries.  Recognition of the importance of human rights came about as the result of a lengthy process, entailing much suffering and sacrifice, which helped shape an awareness of the unique worth of each individual human person.  This awareness was grounded not only in historical events, but above all in European thought, characterized as it is by an enriching encounter whose “distant springs are many, coming from Greece and Rome, from Celtic, Germanic and Slavic sources, and from Christianity which profoundly shaped them”,[2]thus forging the very concept of the “person”.

Today, the promotion of human rights is central to the commitment of the European Union to advance the dignity of the person, both within the Union and in its relations with other countries.  This is an important and praiseworthy commitment, since there are still too many situations in which human beings are treated as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age.

In the end, what kind of dignity is there without the possibility of freely expressing one’s thought or professing one’s religious faith?  What dignity can there be without a clear juridical framework which limits the rule of force and enables the rule of law to prevail over the power of tyranny?  What dignity can men and women ever enjoy if they are subjected to all types of discrimination?  What dignity can a person ever hope to find when he or she lacks food and the bare essentials for survival and, worse yet, when they lack the work which confers dignity?

Promoting the dignity of the person means recognizing that he or she possesses inalienable rights which no one may take away arbitrarily, much less for the sake of economic interests.

At the same time, however, care must be taken not to fall into certain errors which can arise from a misunderstanding of the concept of human rights and from its misuse.  Today there is a tendency to claim ever broader individual rights; underlying this is a conception of the human person as detached from all social and anthropological contexts, as if the person were a “monad” (μονάς), increasingly unconcerned with other surrounding “monads”.  The equally essential and complementary concept of duty no longer seems to be linked to such a concept of rights.  As a result, the rights of the individual are upheld, without regard for the fact that each human being is part of a social context wherein his or her rights and duties are bound up with those of others and with the common good of society itself.

I believe, therefore, that it is vital to develop a culture of human rights which wisely links the individual, or better, the personal aspect, to that of the common good, of the “all of us” made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society.[3]  In fact, unless the rights of each individual are harmoniously ordered to the greater good, those rights will end up being considered limitless and consequently will become a source of conflicts and violence.

To speak of transcendent human dignity thus means appealing to human nature, to our innate capacity to distinguish good from evil, to that “compass” deep within our hearts, which God has impressed upon all creation.[4]  Above all, it means regarding human beings not as absolutes, but as beings in relation.  In my view, one of the most common diseases in Europe today is the loneliness typical of those who have no connection with others.  This is especially true of the elderly, who are often abandoned to their fate, and also in the young who lack clear points of reference and opportunities for the future.  It is also seen in the many poor who dwell in our cities and in the disorientation of immigrants who came here seeking a better future.

This loneliness has become more acute as a result of the economic crisis, whose effects continue to have tragic consequences for the life of society.  In recent years, as the European Union has expanded, there has been growing mistrust on the part of citizens towards institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful.  In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a “grandmother”, no longer fertile and vibrant.  As a result, the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions.

Together with this, we encounter certain rather selfish lifestyles, marked by an opulence which is no longer sustainable and frequently indifferent to the world around us, and especially to the poorest of the poor.  To our dismay we see technical and economic questions dominating political debate, to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings.[5]  Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited, with the result that – as is so tragically apparent – whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb.

This is the great mistake made “when technology is allowed to take over”;[6] the result is a confusion between ends and means”.[7]  It is the inevitable consequence of a “throwaway culture” and an uncontrolled consumerism.  Upholding the dignity of the person means instead acknowledging the value of human life, which is freely given us and hence cannot be an object of trade or commerce.  As members of this Parliament, you are called to a great mission which may at times seem an impossible one: to tend to the needs of individuals and peoples.  To tend to those in need takes strength and tenderness, effort and generosity in the midst of a functionalistic and privatized mindset which inexorably leads to a “throwaway culture”.  To care for individuals and peoples in need means protecting memory and hope; it means taking responsibility for the present with its situations of utter marginalization and anguish, and being capable of bestowing dignity upon it.[8]

 

II

How, then, can hope in the future be restored, so that, beginning with the younger generation, there can be a rediscovery of that confidence needed to pursue the great ideal of a united and peaceful Europe, a Europe which is creative and resourceful, respectful of rights and conscious of its duties?

To answer this question, allow me to use an image.  One of the most celebrated frescoes of Raphael is found in the Vatican and depicts the so-called “School of Athens”.  Plato and Aristotle are in the centre.  Plato’s finger is pointed upward, to the world of ideas, to the sky, to heaven as we might say.  Aristotle holds his hand out before him, towards the viewer, towards the world, concrete reality.  This strikes me as a very apt image of Europe and her history, made up of the constant interplay between heaven and earth, where the sky suggests that openness to the transcendent – to God – which has always distinguished the peoples of Europe, while the earth represents Europe’s practical and concrete ability to confront situations and problems.

The future of Europe depends on the recovery of the vital connection between these two elements.  A Europe which is no longer open to the transcendent dimension of life is a Europe which risks slowly losing its own soul and that “humanistic spirit” which it still loves and defends.

Taking as a starting point this opening to the transcendent, I would like to reaffirm the centrality of the human person, which otherwise is at the mercy of the whims and the powers of the moment.  I consider to be fundamental not only the legacy that Christianity has offered in the past to the social and cultural formation of the continent, but above all the contribution which it desires to offer today, and in the future, to Europe’s growth.  This contribution does not represent a threat to the secularity of states or to the independence of the institutions of the European Union, but rather an enrichment.  This is clear from the ideals which shaped Europe from the beginning, such as peace, subsidiarity and reciprocal solidarity, and a humanism centred on respect for the dignity of the human person.

I wish, then, to reiterate the readiness of the Holy See and the Catholic Church, through the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (COMECE), to engage in meaningful, open and transparent dialogue with the institutions of the European Union.   I am likewise convinced that a Europe which is capable of appreciating its religious roots and of grasping their fruitfulness and potential, will be all the more immune to the many forms of extremism spreading in the world today, not least as a result of the great vacuum of ideals which we are currently witnessing in the West, since “it is precisely man’s forgetfulness of God, and his failure to give him glory, which gives rise to violence”.[9]

Here I cannot fail to recall the many instances of injustice and persecution which daily afflict religious minorities, and Christians in particular, in various parts of our world.  Communities and individuals today find themselves subjected to barbaric acts of violence: they are evicted from their homes and native lands, sold as slaves, killed, beheaded, crucified or burned alive, under the shameful and complicit silence of so many.

The motto of the European Union is United in Diversity.  Unity, however, does not mean uniformity of political, economic and cultural life, or ways of thinking.  Indeed, all authentic unity draws from the rich diversities which make it up: in this sense it is like a family, which is all the more united when each of its members is free to be fully himself or herself.  I consider Europe as a family of peoples who will sense the closeness of the institutions of the Union when these latter are able wisely to combine the desired ideal of unity with the diversity proper to each people, cherishing particular traditions, acknowledging its past history and its roots, liberated from so many manipulations and phobias.  Affirming the centrality of the human person means, above all, allowing all to express freely their individuality and their creativity, both as individuals and as peoples.

At the same time, the specific features of each one represent an authentic richness to the degree that they are placed at the service of all.  The proper configuration of the European Union must always be respected, based as it is on the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, so that mutual assistance can prevail and progress can be made on the basis of mutual trust.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the European Parliament, within this dynamic of unity and particularity, yours is the responsibility of keeping democracy alive for the peoples of Europe.  It is no secret that a conception of unity seen as uniformity strikes at the vitality of the democratic system, weakening the rich, fruitful and constructive interplay of organizations and political parties.  This leads to the risk of living in a world of ideas, of mere words, of images, of sophistry… and to end up confusing the reality of democracy with a new political nominalism.  Keeping democracy alive in Europe requires avoiding the many globalizing tendencies to dilute reality: namely, angelic forms of purity, dictatorships of relativism, brands of ahistorical fundamentalism, ethical systems lacking kindness, and intellectual discourse bereft of wisdom[10].

Keeping democracies alive is a challenge in the present historic moment.  The true strength of our democracies – understood as expressions of the political will of the people – must not be allowed to collapse under the pressure of multinational interests which are not universal, which weaken them and turn them into uniform systems of economic power at the service of unseen empires.  This is one of the challenges which history sets before you today.

To give Europe hope means more than simply acknowledging the centrality of the human person; it also implies nurturing the gifts of each man and woman.  It means investing in individuals and in those settings in which their talents are shaped and flourish.  The first area surely is that of education, beginning with the family, the fundamental cell and most precious element of any society.  The family, united, fruitful and indissoluble, possesses the elements fundamental for fostering hope in the future.  Without this solid basis, the future ends up being built on sand, with dire social consequences.  Then too, stressing the importance of the family not only helps to give direction and hope to new generations, but also to many of our elderly, who are often forced to live alone and are effectively abandoned because there is no longer the warmth of a family hearth able to accompany and support them.

Alongside the family, there are the various educational institutes: schools and universities. Education cannot be limited to providing technical expertise alone.  Rather, it should encourage the more complex process of assisting the human person to grow in his or her totality.  Young people today are asking for a suitable and complete education which can enable them to look to the future with hope instead of disenchantment.  There is so much creative potential in Europe in the various fields of scientific research, some of which have yet to be fully explored.  We need only think, for example, of alternative sources of energy, the development of which will assist in the protection of the environment.

Europe has always been in the vanguard of efforts to promote ecology.  Our earth needs constant concern and attention.  Each of us has a personal responsibility to care for creation, this precious gift which God has entrusted to us.  This means, on the one hand, that nature is at our disposal, to enjoy and use properly.  Yet it also means that we are not its masters.  Stewards, but not masters.  We need to love and respect nature, but “instead we are often guided by the pride of dominating, possessing, manipulating, exploiting; we do not ‘preserve’ the earth, we do not respect it, we do not consider it as a freely-given gift to look after”.[11]  Respect for the environment, however, means more than not destroying it; it also means using it for good purposes.  I am thinking above all of the agricultural sector, which provides sustenance and nourishment to our human family.  It is intolerable that millions of people around the world are dying of hunger while tons of food are discarded each day from our tables.  Respect for nature also calls for recognizing that man himself is a fundamental part of it.  Along with an environmental ecology, there is also need of that human ecology which consists in respect for the person, which I have wanted to emphasize in addressing you today.

The second area in which people’s talents flourish is labour.  The time has come to promote policies which create employment, but above all there is a need to restore dignity to labour by ensuring proper working conditions.  This implies, on the one hand, finding new ways of joining market flexibility with the need for stability and security on the part of workers; these are indispensable for their human development.  It also implies favouring a suitable social context geared not to the exploitation of persons, but to ensuring, precisely through labour, their ability to create a family and educate their children.

Likewise, there needs to be a united response to the question of migration.  We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery!  The boats landing daily on the shores of Europe are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance.  The absence of mutual support within the European Union runs the risk of encouraging particularistic solutions to the problem, solutions which fail to take into account the human dignity of immigrants, and thus contribute to slave labour and continuing social tensions.  Europe will be able to confront the problems associated with immigration only if it is capable of clearly asserting its own cultural identity and enacting adequate legislation to protect the rights of European citizens and to ensure the acceptance of immigrants.  Only if it is capable of adopting fair, courageous and realistic policies which can assist the countries of origin in their own social and political development and in their efforts to resolve internal conflicts – the principal cause of this phenomenon – rather than adopting policies motivated by self-interest, which increase and feed such conflicts.  We need to take action against the causes and not only the effects.

 III

Mr President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Awareness of one’s own identity is also necessary for entering into a positive dialogue with the States which have asked to become part of the Union in the future.  I am thinking especially of those in the Balkans, for which membership in the European Union could be a response to the desire for peace in a region which has suffered greatly from past conflicts.  Awareness of one’s own identity is also indispensable for relations with other neighbouring countries, particularly with those bordering the Mediterranean, many of which suffer from internal conflicts, the pressure of religious fundamentalism and the reality of global terrorism.

Upon you, as legislators, it is incumbent to protect and nurture Europe’s identity, so that its citizens can experience renewed confidence in the institutions of the Union and in its underlying project of peace and friendship.  Knowing that “the more the power of men and women increases, the greater is individual and collective responsibility”,[12] I encourage you to work to make Europe rediscover the best of itself.

An anonymous second-century author wrote that “Christians are to the world what the soul is to the body”.[13]  The function of the soul is to support the body, to be its conscience and its historical memory.  A two-thousand-year-old history links Europe and Christianity.  It is a history not free of conflicts and errors, but one constantly driven by the desire to work for the good of all.  We see this in the beauty of our cities, and even more in the beauty of the many works of charity and constructive cooperation throughout this continent.  This history, in large part, must still be written.  It is our present and our future.  It is our identity.  Europe urgently needs to recover its true features in order to grow, as its founders intended, in peace and harmony, since it is not yet free of conflicts.

Dear Members of the European Parliament, the time has come to work together in building a Europe which revolves not around the economy, but around the sacredness of the human person, around inalienable values.  In building a Europe which courageously embraces its past and confidently looks to its future in order fully to experience the hope of its present.  The time has come for us to abandon the idea of a Europe which is fearful and self-absorbed, in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values and faith as well.  A Europe which contemplates the heavens and pursues lofty ideals.  A Europe which cares for, defends and protects man, every man and woman.  A Europe which bestrides the earth surely and securely, a precious point of reference for all humanity!

 

Thank you!

 


[1]  JOHN PAUL II, Address to the European Parliament (11 October 1988), 5.

[2]  JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (8 October 1988), 3.

[3]  Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 7; SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 26.

[4]  Cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 37.

[5]  Cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 55.

[6]  BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 71.

[7]  Ibid.

[8]  Cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 209.

[9]  BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps, 7 January 2013.

[10] Evangelii Gaudium, 231.

[11]  FRANCIS, General Audience, 5 June 2013.

[12]  Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Gaudium et Spes, 34.

[13]  Cf. Letter to Diognetus, 6.

(from Vatican Radio)

Posted in abortion, human ecology, Pope Francis, religious freedom | Tagged , , , , ,

In full: Lord Sacks speech that brought Vatican conference to its feet

Sacks[From Austen Ivereigh in Rome]

Among many speeches yesterday following Pope Francis’s address to the Humanum colloquium on complementarity, that of Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, was the standout, bringing the audience of 300 in the synod hall to their feet. Using dazzling oratory, he offered a magisterial account of the development of marriage from the very start — a sexual act between fish in Scotland — right up to the present day, told by means of seven stories, and ending with a spectacular exegesis of the Genesis account. It is a story with a tragic end: the dismantling of what he calls “the single most humanising institution in history” resulting in a whole new era of poverty and social division. Yet the recovery of that institution offers hope.  The full speech follows. 

I want this morning to begin our conversation by one way of telling the story of the most beautiful idea in the history of civilization: the idea of the love that brings new life into the world. There are of course many ways of telling the story, and this is just one. But to me it is a story of seven key moments, each of them surprising and unexpected.
The first, according to a report in the press on 20th October of this year, took
place in a lake in Scotland 385 million years ago. It was then, according to this new
discovery, that two fish came together to perform the first instance of sexual reproduction
known to science. Until then all life had propagated itself asexually, by cell division,
budding, fragmentation or parthenogenesis, all of which are far simpler and more
economical than the division of life into male and female, each with a different role in
creating and sustaining life.

When we consider, even in the animal kingdom, how much effort and energy the
coming together of male and female takes, in terms of displays, courtship rituals, rivalries
and violence, it is astonishing that sexual reproduction ever happened at all. Biologists
are still not quite sure why it did. Some say to offer protection against parasites, or
immunities against disease. Others say it’s simply that the meeting of opposites generates
diversity. But one way or another, the fish in Scotland discovered something new and
beautiful that’s been copied ever since by virtually all advanced forms of life. Life begins
when male and female meet and embrace.

The second unexpected development was the unique challenge posed to Homo
sapiens by two factors: we stood upright, which constricted the female pelvis, and we had
bigger brains – a 300 per cent increase – which meant larger heads. The result was that
human babies had to be born more prematurely than any other species, and so needed
parental protection for much longer. This made parenting more demanding among
humans than any other species, the work of two people rather than one. Hence the very rare phenomenon among mammals, of pair bonding, unlike other species where the male contribution tends to end with the act of impregnation. Among most primates, fathers don’t even recognise their children let alone care for them. Elsewhere in the animal kingdom motherhood is almost universal but fatherhood is rare.

So what emerged along with the human person was the union of the biological mother
and father to care for their child. Thus far nature, but then came culture, and the third
surprise.

It seems that among hunter gatherers, pair bonding was the norm. Then came
agriculture, and economic surplus, and cities and civilisation, and for the first time sharp
inequalities began to emerge between rich and poor, powerful and powerless. The great
ziggurats of Mesopotamia and pyramids of ancient Egypt, with their broad base and
narrow top, were monumental statements in stone of a hierarchical society in which the
few had power over the many. And the most obvious expression of power among alpha
males whether human or primate, is to dominate access to fertile women and thus
maximise the handing on of your genes to the next generation. Hence polygamy, which
exists in 95 per cent of mammal species and 75 per cent of cultures known to
anthropology. Polygamy is the ultimate expression of inequality because it means that
many males never get the chance to have a wife and child. And sexual envy has been,
throughout history, among animals as well as humans, a prime driver of violence.

That is what makes the first chapter of Genesis so revolutionary with its
statement that every human being, regardless of class, colour, culture or creed, is in the image and likeness of God himself. We know that in the ancient world it was rulers, kings, emperors and pharaohs who were held to be in the image of God. So what Genesis was saying was that we are all royalty. We each have equal dignity in the kingdom of faith under the sovereignty of God.

From this it follows that we each have an equal right to form a marriage and have children, which is why, regardless of how we read the story of Adam and Eve – and there are differences between Jewish and Christian readings – the norm presupposed by that story is: one woman, one man. Or as the Bible itself says: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Monogamy did not immediately become the norm, even within the world of the
Bible. But many of its most famous stories, about the tension between Sarah and Hagar,
or Leah and Rachel and their children, or David and Bathsheba, or Solomon’s many
wives, are all critiques that point the way to monogamy.

And there is a deep connection between monotheism and monogamy, just as
there is, in the opposite direction, between idolatry and adultery. Monotheism and
monogamy are about the all-embracing relationship between I and Thou, myself and one
other, be it a human, or the divine, Other.

What makes the emergence of monogamy unusual is that it is normally the case
that the values of a society are those imposed on it by the ruling class. And the ruling
class in any hierarchical society stands to gain from promiscuity and polygamy, both of which multiply the chances of my genes being handed on to the next generation. From monogamy the rich and powerful lose and the poor and powerless gain. So the return of monogamy goes against the normal grain of social change and was a real triumph for the equal dignity of all. Every bride and every groom are royalty; every home a palace when furnished with love.

The fourth remarkable development was the way this transformed the moral life.
We’ve all become familiar with the work of evolutionary biologists using computer
simulations and the iterated prisoners’ dilemma to explain why reciprocal altruism exists
among all social animals. We behave to others as we would wish them to behave to us,
and we respond to them as they respond to us. As C S Lewis pointed out in his book The
Abolition of Man, reciprocity is the Golden Rule shared by all the great civilizations.

What was new and remarkable in the Hebrew Bible was the idea that love, not
just fairness, is the driving principle of the moral life. Three loves. “Love the Lord your
God with all your heart, all your soul and all your might.” “Love your neighbour as
yourself.” And, repeated no less than 36 times in the Mosaic books, “Love the stranger
because you know what it feels like to be a stranger.” Or to put it another way: just as
God created the natural world in love and forgiveness, so we are charged with creating
the social world in love and forgiveness. And that love is a flame lit in marriage and the
family. Morality is the love between husband and wife, parent and child, extended
outward to the world.

The fifth development shaped the entire structure of Jewish experience. In
ancient Israel an originally secular form of agreement, called a covenant, was taken and
transformed into a new way of thinking about the relationship between God and
humanity, in the case of Noah, and between God and a people in the case of Abraham
and later the Israelites at Mount Sinai. A covenant is like a marriage. It is a mutual
pledge of loyalty and trust between two or more people, each respecting the dignity and
integrity of the other, to work together to achieve together what neither can achieve
alone. And there is one thing even God cannot achieve alone, which is to live within the
human heart. That needs us.

So the Hebrew word emunah, wrongly translated as faith, really means faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty, steadfastness, not walking away even when the going gets tough, trusting the other and honouring the other’s trust in us. What covenant did, and we see this in almost all the prophets, was to understand the relationship between us and God in terms of the relationship between bride and groom, wife and husband. Love thus became not only the basis of morality but also of theology. In Judaism faith is a marriage. Rarely was this more beautifully stated than by Hosea when he said in the name of God:

I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will know the Lord.

Jewish men say those words every weekday morning as we wind the strap of our tefillin
around our finger like a wedding ring. Each morning we renew our marriage with God.

This led to a sixth and quite subtle idea that truth, beauty, goodness, and life
itself, do not exist in any one person or entity but in the “between,” what Martin Buber
called Das Zwischenmenschliche, the interpersonal, the counterpoint of speaking and
listening, giving and receiving. Throughout the Hebrew Bible and the rabbinic literature,
the vehicle of truth is conversation. In revelation God speaks and asks us to listen. In
prayer we speak and ask God to listen. There is never only one voice. In the Bible the
prophets argue with God. In the Talmud rabbis argue with one another. In fact I
sometimes think the reason God chose the Jewish people was because He loves a good
argument. Judaism is a conversation scored for many voices, never more passionately
than in the Song of Songs, a duet between a woman and a man, the beloved and her
lover, that Rabbi Akiva called the holy of holies of religious literature.

The prophet Malachi calls the male priest the guardian of the law of truth. The
book of Proverbs says of the woman of worth that “the law of loving kindness is on her
tongue.” It is that conversation between male and female voices, between truth and love,
justice and mercy, law and forgiveness, that frames the spiritual life. In biblical times
each Jew had to give a half shekel to the Temple to remind us that we are only half.
There are some cultures that teach that we are nothing. There are others that teach that we are everything. The Jewish view is that we are half and we need to open ourselves to another if we are to become whole.

All this led to the seventh outcome, that in Judaism the home and the family
became the central setting of the life of faith. In the only verse in the Hebrew Bible to
explain why God chose Abraham, He says: “I have known him so that he will instruct
his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is
right and just.” Abraham was chosen not to rule an empire, command an army, perform
miracles or deliver prophecies, but simply to be a parent. In one of the most famous lines in Judaism, which we say every day and night, Moses commands, “You shall teach these things repeatedly to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house or when you walk on the way, when you lie down and when you rise up.” Parents are to be educators, education is the conversation between the generations, and the first school is the home.

So Jews became an intensely family oriented people, and it was this that saved us
from tragedy. After the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70, Jews were
scattered throughout the world, everywhere a minority, everywhere without rights,
suffering some of the worst persecutions ever known by a people and yet Jews survived
because they never lost three things: their sense of family, their sense of community and
their faith.

And they were renewed every week especially on Shabbat, the day of rest when
we give our marriages and families what they most need and are most starved of in the
contemporary world, namely time. I once produced a television documentary for the
BBC on the state of family life in Britain, and I took the person who was then Britain’s
leading expert on child care, Penelope Leach, to a Jewish primary school on a Friday
morning.

There she saw the children enacting in advance what they would see that evening
around the family table. There were the five year old mother and father blessing the five
year old children with the five year old grandparents looking on. She was fascinated by
this whole institution, and she asked the children what they most enjoyed about the
Sabbath. One five year old boy turned to her and said, “It’s the only night of the week
when daddy doesn’t have to rush off.” As we walked away from the school when the
filming was over she turned to me and said, “Chief Rabbi, that Sabbath of yours is saving
their parents’ marriages.”

So that is one way of telling the story, a Jewish way, beginning with the birth of
sexual reproduction, then the unique demands of human parenting, then the eventual
triumph of monogamy as a fundamental statement of human equality, followed by the
way marriage shaped our vision of the moral and religious life as based on love and
covenant and faithfulness, even to the point of thinking of truth as a conversation
between lover and beloved. Marriage and the family are where faith finds its home and
where the Divine Presence lives in the love between husband and wife, parent and child.
What then has changed? Here’s one way of putting it. I wrote a book a few years
ago about religion and science and I summarised the difference between them in two
sentences. “Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things
together to see what they mean.” And that’s a way of thinking about culture also. Does it
put things together or does it take things apart?

What made the traditional family remarkable, a work of high religious art, is
what it brought together: sexual drive, physical desire, friendship, companionship, emotional kinship and love, the begetting of children and their protection and care, their early education and induction into an identity and a history. Seldom has any institution woven together so many different drives and desires, roles and responsibilities. It made sense of the world and gave it a human face, the face of love.

For a whole variety of reasons, some to do with medical developments like birth
control, in vitro fertilisation and other genetic interventions, some to do with moral
change like the idea that we are free to do whatever we like so long as it does not harm
others, some to do with a transfer of responsibilities from the individual to the state, and
other and more profound changes in the culture of the West, almost everything that
marriage once brought together has now been split apart. Sex has been divorced from
love, love from commitment, marriage from having children, and having children from
responsibility for their care.

The result is that in Britain in 2012, 47.5 per cent of children were born outside
marriage, expected to become a majority in 2016. Fewer people are marrying, those who
are, are marrying later, and 42 per cent of marriages end in divorce. Nor is cohabitation a
substitute for marriage. The average length of cohabitation in Britain and the United
States is less than two years. The result is a sharp increase among young people of eating
disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, stress related syndromes, depression and actual and
attempted suicides. The collapse of marriage has created a new form of poverty
concentrated among single parent families, and of these, the main burden is born by
women, who in 2011 headed 92 per cent of single parent households. In Britain today
more than a million children will grow up with no contact whatsoever with their fathers.

This is creating a divide within societies the like of which has not been seen since Disraeli spoke of “two nations” a century and a half ago. Those who are privileged to grow up in stable loving association with the two people who brought them into being will, on average, be healthier physically and emotionally. They will do better at school and at work. They will have more successful relationships, be happier and live longer.

And yes, there are many exceptions. But the injustice of it all cries out to heaven. It will go down in history as one of the tragic instances of what Friedrich Hayek called “the fatal conceit” that somehow we know better than the wisdom of the ages, and can defy the lessons of biology and history. No one surely wants to go back to the narrow prejudices of the past.

This week, in Britain, a new film opens, telling the story of one of the great minds of the twentieth century, Alan Turing, the Cambridge mathematician who laid the philosophical
foundations of computing and artificial intelligence, and helped win the war by breaking
the German naval code Enigma. After the war, Turing was arrested and tried for
homosexual behaviour, underwent chemically induced castration, and died at the age of
41 by cyanide poisoning, thought by many to have committed suicide. That is a world to
which we should never return.

But our compassion for those who choose to live differently should not inhibit us from being advocates for the single most humanising institution in history. The family, man, woman, and child, is not one lifestyle choice among many. It is the best means we have yet discovered for nurturing future generations and enabling children to grow in a matrix of stability and love. It is where we learn the delicate choreography of relationship and how to handle the inevitable conflicts within any human group. It is where we first take the risk of giving and receiving love. It is where one generation passes on its values to the next, ensuring the continuity of a civilization. For any society, the family is the crucible of its future, and for the sake of our children’s future, we must be its defenders.

Since this is a religious gathering, let me, if I may, end with a piece of biblical
exegesis. The story of the first family, the first man and woman in the garden of Eden, is
not generally regarded as a success. Whether or not we believe in original sin, it did not
end happily. After many years of studying the text I want to suggest a different reading.

The story ends with three verses that seem to have no connection with one
another. No sequence. No logic. In Genesis 3: 19 God says to the man: “By the sweat of
your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were
taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Then in the next verse we read: “The
man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all life.” And in the next,
“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”

What is the connection here? Why did God telling the man that he was mortal
lead him to give his wife a new name? And why did that act seem to change God’s
attitude to both of them, so that He performed an act of tenderness, by making them
clothes, almost as if He had partially forgiven them? Let me also add that the Hebrew
word for “skin” is almost indistinguishable from the Hebrew word for “light,” so that
Rabbi Meir, the great sage of the early second century, read the text as saying that God
made for them “garments of light.” What did he mean?

If we read the text carefully, we see that until now the first man had given his
wife a purely generic name. He called her ishah, woman. Recall what he said when he
first saw her: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be
called woman for she was taken from man.” For him she was a type, not a person. He
gave her a noun, not a name. What is more he defines her as a derivative of himself:
something taken from man. She is not yet for him someone other, a person in her own
right. She is merely a kind of reflection of himself.

As long as the man thought he was immortal, he ultimately needed no one else. But now he knew he was mortal. He would one day die and return to dust. There was
only one way in which something of him would live on after his death. That would be if
he had a child. But he could not have a child on his own. For that he needed his wife.
She alone could give birth. She alone could mitigate his mortality. And not because she
was like him but precisely because she was unlike him. At that moment she ceased to be,
for him, a type, and became a person in her own right. And a person has a proper name.
That is what he gave her: the name Chavah, “Eve,” meaning, “giver of life.”

At that moment, as they were about to leave Eden and face the world as we
know it, a place of darkness, Adam gave his wife the first gift of love, a personal name.
And at that moment, God responded to them both in love, and made them garments to
clothe their nakedness, or as Rabbi Meir put it, “garments of light.”

And so it has been ever since, that when a man and woman turn to one another
in a bond of faithfulness, God robes them in garments of light, and we come as close as
we will ever get to God himself, bringing new life into being, turning the prose of biology
into the poetry of the human spirit, redeeming the darkness of the world by the radiance
of love.

[ends]

 

Posted in gay marriage, human ecology, Humanum, marriage

Francis deplores ‘false compassion’ of abortion and euthanasia

Vatican Radio has released a translation of Pope Francis’s remarks Saturday to the Association of Italian Catholic doctors. In it he praises them for “implementing the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church in the field of medical ethics”, and urges them to use the compassion of the Good Samaritan — offering concrete help — rather than the “false compassion” which is used to justify the taking of life, especially of the elderly and the unborn. 

There is no doubt that, in our time, due to scientific and technical advancements, the possibilities for physical healing have significantly increased; and yet, in some respects it seems the ability to “take care” of the person has decreased, especially when he is sick, frail and helpless. In fact, the achievements of science and of medicine can contribute to the improvement of human life to the extent that they are not distanced from the ethical root of these disciplines. For this reason, you Catholic doctors are committed to live your profession as a human and spiritual mission, as a real lay apostolate.

Attention to human life, especially that in greatest difficulty, that is, to the sick, the elderly, children, deeply involves the mission of the Church. The Church also feels called to participate in the debate that relates to human life, presenting its proposal based on the Gospel. In many places, the quality of life is related primarily to economic means, to “well-being”, to the beauty and enjoyment of the physical, forgetting other more profound dimensions of existence — interpersonal, spiritual and religious. In fact, in the light of faith and right reason, human life is always sacred and always “of quality”. There is no human life that is more sacred than another – every human life is sacred – just as there is no human life qualitatively more significant than another, only by virtue of resources, rights, great social and economic opportunities.

This is what you, Catholic doctors, try to say, first of all with your professionalism. Your work wants to witness by word and by example that human life is always sacred, valuable and inviolable. And as such, it must be loved, defended and cared for. Your professionalism, enriched with the spirit of faith, is one more reason to work with those— even from different religious perspectives or thought—who recognize the dignity of the human person as a criterion for their activities. In fact, if the Hippocratic Oath commits you to always be servants of life, the Gospel pushes you further: to love it no matter what, especially when it is in need of special care and attention. This is what the members of your Association have done over seventy years of fine work. I urge you to continue with humility and trust on this road, striving to pursue your statutory goals of implementing the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church in the field of medical ethics.

The dominant thinking sometimes suggests a “false compassion”, that which believes that it is: helpful to women to promote abortion; an act of dignity to obtain euthanasia; a scientific breakthrough to “produce” a child and to consider it to be a right rather than a gift to welcome; or to use human lives as guinea pigs presumably to save others. Instead, the compassion of the Gospel is that which accompanies in times of need, that is, the compassion of the Good Samaritan, who “sees”, “has compassion”, approaches and provides concrete help (cf. Lk 10:33).

Your mission as doctors puts you in daily contact with many forms of suffering. I encourage you to take them on as “Good Samaritans”, caring in a special way for the elderly, the infirm and the disabled. Fidelity to the Gospel of life and respect for life as a gift from God sometimes require choices that are courageous and go against the current, which in particular circumstances, may become points of conscientious objection. And this fidelity entails many social consequences. We are living in a time of experimentation with life. But a bad experiment. Making children rather than accepting them as a gift, as I said. Playing with life. Be careful, because this is a sin against the Creator: against God the Creator, who created things this way. When so many times in my life as a priest I have heard objections: “But tell me, why is the Church opposed to abortion, for example? Is it a religious problem?” No, no. It is not a religious problem. “Is it a philosophical problem?” No, it is not a philosophical problem. It’s a scientific problem, because there is a human life there, and it is not lawful to take out a human life to solve a problem. “But no, modern thought…” But, listen, in ancient thought and modern thought, the word “kill” means the same thing. The same evaluation applies to euthanasia: we all know that with so many old people, in this throwaway culture, there is this hidden euthanasia. But there is also the other. And this is to say to God, “No, I will accomplish the end of life, as I will.” A sin against God the Creator! Think hard about this.

I hope the seventy years of your association will stimulate a further process of growth and maturation. May you work constructively with all the people and institutions who share your love of life and seek to serve it in its dignity, sanctity and inviolability. St. Camillus de Lellis, in suggesting the most effective method in caring for the sick, would simply say: “Put more heart into those hands.” Put more heart in these hands! This is also my hope. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Salus infirmorum, support the intentions with which you intend to continue your action. I ask you to please pray for me and I give you my heartfelt blessing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

Pope Francis to Humanum conference: family crisis is ‘ecological’

humanum[From Austen Ivereigh in Rome]

The breakdown of marriage and family under the weight of a “culture of the provisional” has led to an “ecological” crisis in society, Pope Francis today told participants in an international Vatican conference this morning. He said the collapse “has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable”, affecting especially women, children and the elderly.

While humanity has woken to the crisis facing the planet, both society and Church have been slower to recognize that “our fragile social environments are under threat as well”, he said, before calling for what he called a “new human ecology”

The conference,”Humanum: The Complementarity of Man and Woman”, brings together religious leaders from different traditions to explore the anthropological reality of marriage, based on the complementarity of men and women. It is organized by four Vatican departments, led by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Some 300 participants are meeting Monday through Wednesday in the Synod Hall at the Vatican. Speeches are interspersed with powerful videos that illustrate particular themes linked to marriage and family as a lived reality for most people across the planet.

In his short address opening the conference, Pope Francis described marriage as “a unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for persons, communities, and whole societies” and said children had a right to grow up with a father and a mother.

He also warned against seeing complementarity as a static notion — “let us not confuse that term with the simplistic idea that all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern” — and against politicizing marriage, saying marriage was an anthropological fact, and should not be considered “conservative” or “progressive”.

Full text follows. 

Dear sisters and brothers,

I warmly greet you. I thank Cardinal Muller for his words with which he introduced our meeting. I would like to begin by sharing with you a reflection on the title of your colloquium. You must admit that “complementarity” does not roll lightly off the tongue! Yet it is a word into which many meanings are compressed. It refers to situations where one of two things adds to, completes, or fulfills a lack in the other. But complementarity is much more than that. Yet complementarity is more than this. Christians find its deepest meaning in the first Letter to the Corinthians where Saint Paul tells us that the Spirit has endowed each of us with different gifts so that-just as the human body’s members work together for the good of the whole-everyone’s gifts can work together for the benefit of each. (cf. 1 Cor. 12). To reflect upon “complementarity” is nothing less than to ponder the dynamic harmonies at the heart of all Creation. This is a big word, harmony. All complementarities were made by our Creator, so the Author of harmony achieves this harmony.

It is fitting that you have gathered here in this international colloquium to explore the complementarity of man and woman. This complementarity is a root of marriage and family. For the family grounded in marriage is the first school where we learn to appreciate our own and others’ gifts, and where we begin to acquire the arts of cooperative living. For most of us, the family provides the principal place where we can aspire to greatness as we strive to realize our full capacity for virtue and charity. At the same time, as we know, families give rise to tensions: between egoism and altruism, reason and passion, immediate desires and long-range goals. But families also provide frameworks for resolving such tensions. This is important. When we speak of complementarity between man and woman in this context, let us not confuse that term with the simplistic idea that all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern. Complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children — his or her personal richness, personal charisma. Complementarity becomes a great wealth. It is not just a good thing but it is also beautiful.

We know that today marriage and the family are in crisis. We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

Evidence is mounting that the decline of the marriage culture is associated with increased poverty and a host of other social ills, disproportionately affecting women, children and the elderly. It is always they who suffer the most in this crisis.

The crisis in the family has produced an ecological crisis, for social environments, like natural environments, need protection. And although the human race has come to understand the need to address conditions that menace our natural environments, we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in our Catholic Church. It is therefore essential that we foster a new human ecology.

It is necessary first to promote the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods. The family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation. Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity. That is why I stressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that the contribution of marriage to society is “indispensable”; that it “transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.” (n. 66) And that is why I am grateful to you for your Colloquium’s emphasis on the benefits that marriage can provide to children, the spouses themselves, and to society.

In these days, as you embark on a reflection on the beauty of complementarity between man and woman in marriage, I urge you to lift up yet another truth about marriage: that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart. I urge you to bear in mind especially the young people, who represent our future. Commit yourselves, so that our youth do not give themselves over to the poisonous environment of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern.

Do not fall into the trap of being swayed by political notion. Family is an anthropological fact – a socially and culturally related fact. We cannot qualify it based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history. We can’t think of conservative or progressive notions. Family is a family. It can’t be qualified by ideological notions. Family is per se. It is a strength per se.

I pray that your colloquium will be an inspiration to all who seek to support and strengthen the union of man and woman in marriage as a unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for persons, communities, and whole societies.

I wish to confirm according to the wishes of the Lord, that in September of 2015, I will go to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. Thank you for your prayers with which you accompany my service to the Church. Bless you from my heart.

Posted in human ecology, Humanum, Uncategorized

Cardinal Baldisseri tells British MPs: family gospel ‘key to a more missionary Church’

The following is a reflection given yesterday by the Vatican official with overall responsibility for the synod, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, to a group of British parliamentarians in the company of the British ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker (see his blogpost here). While telling them what it was like inside the synod hall, he also makes some important observations about what a synod is and how the reforms Pope Francis wants to see will enable it to function better. Synods, Cardinal Baldisseri notes, “are not about taking a poll or voting in a democratic way on Church teaching and practice but ….  the Lord leading the pilgrim church through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Mr. Ambassador,

Distinguished Members of the British Parliament,

Cardinal Baldisseri (left) with Father Lombardi

Cardinal Baldisseri (left) with Father Lombardi

Dear Friends,

It is an honor and privilege for me to address you today on the theme of the recent Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization that we just concluded in the Vatican one week ago. I am very grateful for your kind invitation.

First allow me to offer you some background on the meaning of “synod.” The very word “synod” comes from a Greek word formed by combining roots meaning “together” and “going” or “way;” literally, journeying forward on the way together. The word “Synod” has been used over the centuries to refer to an assembly of bishops, as in the Oriental Church, at which Church leaders would elect the patriarch and establish church law.

In September 1965 at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed Pope Paul VI, the Council’s h

All Parliamentary Group to the Holy See at a meeting with the Community of Santi'Egidio

All Parliamentary Group to the Holy See at a meeting with the Community of Santi’Egidio

elmsman, desired to build upon the tremendous fraternal spirit that reigned during the Council’s sessions and to strengthen the bonds that united the Bishop of Rome with the bishops of the world. He created the Synod of Bishops to give the world’s bishops a voice – a sounding board that would advise the pope on various aspects of the Church’s life. From the beginning, synodal assemblies would be consultative, not legislative.

Since Blessed Paul VI established the format in 1965, the global gatherings have certainly not produced new dogma or overturned Church teachings. The majority of Synods took place during the long pontificate of St. John Paul II. The final documents of these meetings are called “Apostolic Exhortations” and clearly bear the mark of the reigning Pontiff.

No one can deny that the synodal process and structure had grown tired with the passage of time, and there seemed little opportunity for evaluation or renewal. Pope Francis mentioned this in an interview last year. He said, “Synodality should be lived at various levels. Maybe it is time to change the methods of the Synod of Bishops, because it seems to me that the current method is not dynamic. This will also have ecumenical value, especially with our Orthodox brethren. From them we can learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality” (Civiltà Cattolica, Sept. 19, 2013).

synod genWithin months of his election as Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis appointed me as the new General Secretary to head the Vatican’s Synod office. The Synod of Bishops is a body outside the Curia itself, accountable to the Pope but also to the bishops. The Holy Father’s desire was clear: he wished to give new life to this important body and allow it to become once again a sounding board, a place for authentic dialogue, debate and fraternal sharing – all for the good of the Church. Pope Francis wished to reform the synodal structure so that it could better discuss and consult on major questions facing the Church, just as it did in the early centuries of Christianity.

The most recent Synod, from October 5-19, did not come in the normal sequence of every four years. It was an Extraordinary Synod bringing together the presidents of national bishops’ conferences, heads of Eastern Catholic churches and members of the Roman Curia. Although the number of participants in the extraordinary synod was smaller, it also included twenty-six voting members named by the Pope, three priests chosen by the Union of Superiors General, sixteen expert advisers, eight representatives of other Christian communities and thirty-six observers, more than half comprised of married couples who addressed our assembly.

The “Ordinary” Synod of Bishops, which will include a larger assembly of Church leaders, will meet at the Vatican from October 4-25, 2015, to continue the discussion on pastoral approaches to the challenges facing families today. The most recent Extraordinary Synod prepared the agenda for discussion for that Ordinary Synod which will have as its theme: The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.

synod logo Many of you undoubtedly followed the recent Extraordinary Synod in the mainstream media, and you may have received indications or impressions that the Synod was a time of great tension, revealing differing opinions within the Church. This morning I would like to share with you what this experience was for us – a journeying together – and how the results of this Extraordinary Synod have an impact not only on the Church but on the world.

I wish to stress one of the most important contributions of the recent Synod, and hopefully a constitutive part of future Synods – the rediscovery of the synodal process. A very important aspect of the Church’s life is based on our understanding that the Spirit of the Risen Christ is given to all the baptized. Synods are not about taking a poll or voting in a democratic way on Church teaching and practice but they embody a humble openness to the fact that the Lord is leading the pilgrim church through the power of the Holy Spirit.
pope synod day 2Last fall, in preparation for the recent Synod, Pope Francis had the Synod office send out a questionnaire to the whole Church, raising very important topics that included the problems facing the family today: the extensive practice of divorce, cohabitation, contraception, procedures of artificial procreation, same-sex unions and polygamy (cf. Instrumentum Laboris, n. 27). We received responses to the consultation from 101 bishops’ conferences (an almost 89% response rate) and nine-hundred and eighty-three Catholic organizations and individuals. Though the timing of the questionnaire was somewhat problematic given the short turnaround for responses, the process nevertheless ensured that the Synod did not begin with abstractions and hypotheses but from a real, direct knowledge of the many challenges sweeping across the globe.

Some responses questioned the Church’s teaching or encouraged greater understanding of people who cannot always live up to that teaching. I stressed on several occasions over the past year that we must recognize that the faithful perceive the truth about the Gospel and its values and their input cannot be ignored. But the bishops have the responsibility and authority to discern ways to apply the constant teaching of the Church.

Synodal Members who took part in the recent Extraordinary Synod described an honest and prayerful attempt to discern answers to complex pastoral challenges across many cultures and ways of thinking. They said the discussions allowed for a genuinely dynamic synod, and that its overall purpose was achieved: to find ways of preaching the Gospel of the family in contemporary society and to find pastoral solutions for families facing difficult situations. The Synod’s purpose was to highlight the Church’s teaching on the family, which always reveals the missionary and pastoral dimension of that teaching, and the Church as merciful, healing, loving and welcoming.

During the first week of the Synod, instead of reading their presentations, the bishops had three or four minutes to summarize their texts – focusing only on one theme – and included ideas or clarifications that had come from listening to their brother bishops.

The second week of the synod was taken up mainly by work in small groups, organized according to language, that treated every theme that had been raised during the prior week. Instead of brainstorming propositions for the Pope, the small groups worked, theme by theme, on amending the summary report, which will be used as the working document for the 2015 Synod.

Synod general NicholsThe recent Synod ended with a ‘Synod Report‘, each paragraph of which Synod Members were able to vote for or against. The votes, which were published with the final text, indicated where there was or was not a two-thirds majority. This Report or “Relatio” now forms the starting point for the next Synod on the family, to take place in a year’s time.

We spoke together about the beauty, dignity and sacredness of marriage – as a vital institution for the Church and for the world. We recalled the words of St. John Paul II, that “the future of humanity passes through the family.” The pastoral mission of the Church is to preach the Gospel of the family clearly and with humility, accompanying people in difficult or exceptional situations. That is what comes first. From this point, we learn to move together towards conversion and towards the goodness of life that God has for us and that Jesus opens for us all. This positive approach flows right through the “Relatio” or Synod Report.

Pope Francis spoke about his duty to guarantee the unity of the Church and to remind the faithful to follow the Gospel of Christ. He also stressed that pastors must see it as their duty to nourish the flock that the Lord has entrusted to them, not only welcoming the lost sheep with fatherly care, but also going out and finding them.

It was hardly surprising that there was such a huge media interest in the recent Synod, unlike many previous Synods. Our Synodal experience together in Rome focused on important issues pertaining to marriage, family, and sexual morality – including those that are controversial both within and outside the Church. For this reason, it generated increased interest in certain areas of Church teaching. The themes we addressed touched on the reality facing the majority of Catholics in their every day life.

The Synod was an attempt to “lend an ear to the rhythm of our time,” as Pope Francis put it. Across the Western world, the collapse of the cultural narrative of marriage means fewer marrying and more and more children born into families lacking necessary stability. This is a serious challenge, because the family is the “school of humanity” according to Gaudium et Spes, the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” (n. 52), and also the “domestic church,” the locus of spiritual life for most ordinary people, as well as the primary vehicle for learning and handing on faith down the generations.

The recovery of the Gospel of the family is key to a more missionary Church that can walk with contemporary people, binding their wounds and guiding them into the spiritual life. The Church is called to live in the harmony of mercy and justice, the pastoral and doctrinal, working out how to be both compassionate mother and clear teacher.

Cardinal Nichols taking a question from Reuters

Cardinal Nichols taking a question from Reuters

His Eminence, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, participated as a Member of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops and recently published a very timely Pastoral Letter to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Westminster, which sums up beautifully the experience of the Synod. He wrote that it was an opportunity to strengthen and reinvigorate the pastoral practice of the Church. Allow me to quote from that Letter: “This Synod … was about the pastoral care that we try to offer each other, the ‘motherly love of the Church’, especially when facing difficult moments and experiences in family life … At the end of our meeting Pope Francis spoke at length about his joy and satisfaction at its work. He told us to look deeply into our hearts to see how God had touched us during the Synod, and to see how we may have been tempted away from the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The Synod, he insisted, has been a spiritual journey, not a debating chamber” (Pastoral Letter on the Synod on the Family, October 26, 2014).

I would like to conclude with the words of Pope Francis himself at the closing of the Synod, with which he summarized the synodal experience as a “journey” moving towards the next stage of the Synod to take place in 2015. The Holy Father said, “I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of ‘Synod,’ a path of solidarity, a ‘journey together.’ And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say ‘enough’; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour (…). A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations (…). This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy(…). It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.”

Thank you very much for your attention and interest. Let us continue our journey together.

+Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri

Secretary General, Synod of Bishops

Vatican City

Posted in Synod2014, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Extraordinary Synod final report: English translation of the relatio synodi

What follows is the official English translation of the Relatio Synodi, the concluding report of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, which was voted on by 183 synod fathers at the conclusion of the meeting in Rome on 19 October. Also published, at the request of Pope Francis, are the numbers of votes each paragraph of the relatio received, for and against.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

Part I

Listening: The Context and the Challenges of the Family

  •           The Socio-Cultural Context
  •           The Importance of Affectivity in Life
  •           Pastoral Challenges

Part II

Looking at Christ: The Gospel of the Family

  •           Looking at Jesus and Divine Pedagogy in the History of Salvation
  •           The Family in the God’s Salvific Plan
  •           The Family in the Church’s Documents
  •           Indissolubility of Matrimony and the Joy of Sharing Life Together
  •           The Truth and Beauty of the Family and Mercy Towards Broken and Fragile Families

 

Part III

Facing the Situation: Pastoral Perspectives     

  •            Proclaiming the Gospel of the Family Today in Various Contexts
  •            Guiding Engaged Couples in Their Preparation for Marriage
  •            Accompanying Married Couples in the Initial Years of Marriage
  •            Pastoral Care for Couples Civilly Married or Living Together
  •            Caring for Broken Families (Separated, Divorced and Not Remarried, Divorced and Remarried, Single-Parent Families)
  •            Pastoral Attention towards Persons with Homosexual Tendencies
  •            The Transmission of Life and the Challenges of the Declining Birthrate 
  •            Upbringing and the Role of the Family in Evangelization

Conclusion

* * *

Introduction

 1.          The Synod of Bishops, gathered around the Holy Father, turned its thoughts to all the families of the world, each with its joys, difficulties and hopes. In a special way, the Assembly felt a duty to give thanks to the Lord for the generosity and faithfulness of so many Christian families in responding to their vocation and mission, which they fulfill with joy and faith, even when living as a family requires facing obstacles, misunderstandings and suffering. The entire Church and this Synod express to these families our appreciation, gratitude and encouragement. During the prayer vigil held in St Peter’s Square on 4 October 2014 in preparation for the Synod on the family, Pope Francis evoked, in a simple yet concrete way, the centrality [of the experience] of the family in everyone’s lives: “Evening falls on our assembly. It is the hour at which one willingly returns home to meet at the same table, in the depth of affection, of the good that has been done and received, of the encounters which warm the heart and make it grow, good wine which hastens the unending feast in the days of man. It is also the weightiest hour for one who finds himself face to face with his own loneliness, in the bitter twilight of shattered dreams and broken plans; how many people trudge through the day in the blind alley of resignation, of abandonment, even resentment: in how many homes the wine of joy has been less plentiful, and therefore, also the zest — the very wisdom — for life […]. Let us make our prayer heard for one another this evening, a prayer for all.”

2.          Within the family are joys and trials, deep love and relationships which, at times, can be wounded. The family is truly the “school of humanity” (Gaudium et Spes, 52), which is much needed today. Despite the many signs of crisis in the family institution in various areas of the “global village”, the desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant, especially among young people, and serves as the basis of the Church’s need to proclaim untiringly and with profound conviction the “Gospel of the Family”,  entrusted to her together with the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ and ceaselessly taught by the Fathers, the masters of spirituality and the Church’s Magisterium. The family is uniquely important to the Church and in these times, when all believers are invited to think of others rather than themselves, the family needs to be rediscovered as the essential agent in the work of evangelization.

3.          At the Extraordinary General Assembly of October, 2014, the Bishop of Rome called upon the Synod of Bishops to reflect upon the critical and invaluable reality of the family, a reflection which will then be pursued in greater depth at its Ordinary General Assembly scheduled to take place in October, 2015, as well as during the full year between the two synodal events. “The convenire in unum around the Bishop of Rome is already an event of grace, in which episcopal collegiality is made manifest in a path of spiritual and pastoral discernment.” These were the words used by Pope Francis in describing the synodal experience and indicating the task at hand: to read both the signs of God and human history, in a twofold yet unique faithfulness which this reading involves.

4.          With these words in mind, we have gathered together the results of our reflections and our discussions in the following three parts: listening, looking at the situation of the family today  in all its complexities, both lights and shadows; looking, our gaze is fixed on Christ to re-evaluate, with renewed freshness and enthusiasm, what revelation,  transmitted in the Church’s faith, tells us about the beauty and dignity of the family; and facing the situation, with an eye on the Lord Jesus, to discern how the Church and society can renew their commitment to the family.

 

 PART I

Listening: the context and challenges of the family

The Socio-Cultural Context

5.          Faithful to Christ’s teaching, we look to the reality of the family today in all its complexity, with both its lights and shadows. We turn our thoughts to parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, close and distant relatives and the bonds between two families forged by marriage. Anthropological and cultural changes in our times influence all aspects of life and require an analytic and diversified approach. The positive aspects are first to be highlighted, namely, a greater freedom of expression and a better recognition of the rights of women and children, at least in some parts of the world. On the other hand, equal consideration needs to be given to the growing danger represented by a troubling individualism which deforms family bonds and ends up considering each component of the family as an isolated unit, leading, in some cases, to the idea that a person is formed according to one’s own desires, which are considered absolute. Added to this is the crisis of faith, witnessed  among a great many Catholics, which oftentimes underlies the crisis in marriage and the family.

6.          One of the poorest aspects of contemporary culture is loneliness, arising from the absence of God in a person’s life and the fragility of relationships. There is also a general feeling of powerlessness in the face of socio-cultural realities which oftentimes end in crushing families. Such is the case in increasing instances of poverty and unemployment in the workplace, which at times is a real nightmare or in overwhelming financial difficulties, which discourage the young from marrying. Families often feel abandoned by the disinterest and lack of attention by institutions. The negative impact on the organization of society is clear, as seen in the demographic crisis, in the difficulty of raising children, in a hesitancy to welcome  new life and in considering the presence of older persons as a burden. All these can affect a person’s emotional balance, which can sometimes lead to violence. The State has the responsibility to pass laws and create work to ensure the future of young people and help them realize their plan of forming a family.

7.          Some cultural and religious contexts pose particular challenges. In some places, polygamy is still being practiced and in places with long traditions, the custom of “marriage in stages”. In other places, “arranged marriages” is an enduring practice.  In countries where Catholicism is the minority, many mixed and interreligious marriages take place, all with their inherent difficulties in terms of jurisprudence, Baptism, the upbringing of children and the mutual respect for each other’s  religious freedom, not to mention the danger of relativism or indifference.  At the same time, such marriages can exhibit great potential in favouring the spirit of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue in a harmonious living of diverse religions in the same place. Even outside Western societies, many places are witnessing an overall increase in the practice of cohabitation before marriage or simply cohabitating with no intention of a legally binding relationship.

 8.          Many children are born outside marriage, in great numbers in some countries, many of whom subsequently grow up with just one of their parents or in a blended or reconstituted family. Divorces are increasing, many times taking place solely because of economic reasons. Oftentimes, children are a source of contention between parents and become the real victims of family break-ups. Fathers who are often absent from their families, not simply for economic reasons, need to assume more clearly their responsibility for children and the family. The dignity of women still needs to be defended and promoted. In fact, in many places today, simply being a woman is a source of discrimination and the gift of motherhood is often penalized, rather than  esteemed. Not to be overlooked is the increasing violence against women, where they become victims, unfortunately, often within families and as a result of the serious and widespread practice genital mutilation in some cultures. The sexual exploitation of children is still another scandalous and perverse reality in present-day society. Societies characterized by violence due to war, terrorism or the presence of organized crime are witnessing the deterioration of the family, above all in big cities, where, in their peripheral areas, the so-called phenomenon of “street-children” is on the rise. Furthermore, migration is another sign of the times to be faced and understood in terms of its onerous consequences to family life.

The Importance of Affectivity in Life

9.          Faced with the afore-mentioned social situation, people in  many parts of the world are feeling a great need to take care of themselves, to know themselves better, to live in greater harmony with their feelings and sentiments and to seek to live their affectivity in the best manner possible. These proper aspirations can lead to a desire to put greater effort into building relationships of self-giving and creative reciprocity, which are empowering and supportive like those within a family. In this case, however, individualism and living only for one’s self is a real danger. The challenge for the Church is to assist couples in the maturation and development of their affectivity through fostering dialogue, virtue and trust in the merciful love of God. The full commitment required in marriage can be a strong antidote to the temptation of a selfish individualism.

10.       Cultural tendencies in today’s world seem to set no limits on a person’s affectivity in which every aspect needs to be explored, even those which are highly complex. Indeed, nowadays a person’s affectivity is very fragile; a narcissistic, unstable or changeable affectivity does not always allow a person to grow to maturity. Particularly worrisome is the spread of pornography and the commercialization of the body, fostered also by a misuse of the internet and reprehensible situations where people are forced into prostitution. In this context, couples are often uncertain, hesitant and struggling to find ways to grow. Many tend to remain in the early stages of their affective and sexual life. A crisis in a couple’s relationship destabilizes the family and may lead, through separation and divorce, to serious consequences for adults, children and society as a whole, weakening its individual and social bonds. The decline in population, due to a mentality against having children and promoted by the world politics of reproductive health, creates not only a situation in which the relationship between generations is no longer ensured but also the danger that, over time, this decline will lead to economic impoverishment and a loss of hope in the future.

Pastoral Challenges

11.        In this regard, the Church is conscious of the need to offer a particularly meaningful word of hope, which must be done based on the conviction that the human person comes from God, and that, consequently, any reconsideration of the great question on the meaning of human existence can be responsive to humanity’s most profound expectations. The great values of marriage and the Christian family correspond to the search that characterizes human existence, even in these times of individualism and hedonism. People need to be accepted in the concrete circumstances of life. We need to know how to support them in their searching and to encourage them in their hunger for God and their wish to feel fully part of the Church, also including those who have experienced failure or find themselves in a variety of situations. The Christian message always contains in itself the reality and the dynamic of mercy and truth which meet in Christ.

PART II

Looking at Christ: the Gospel of the Family

 Looking at Jesus and the Divine Pedagogy in the History of Salvation

12.       In order to “walk among contemporary challenges, the decisive condition is to maintain a fixed gaze on Jesus Christ, to pause in contemplation and in adoration of his Face. … Indeed, every time we return to the source of the Christian experience, new paths and undreamed of possibilities open up” (Pope Francis, Discourse, 4 October 2014). Jesus looked upon the women and the men he met with love and tenderness, accompanying their steps with patience and mercy, in proclaiming the demands of the Kingdom of God.

13.       Since the order of creation is determined by its orientation towards Christ, a distinction needs to be made without separating the various levels through which God communicates to humanity the grace of the covenant. By reason of the divine pedagogy, according to which the order of creation develops through successive stages to the moment of redemption, we need to understand the newness of the Sacrament of Marriage in continuity with natural marriage in its origin, that is, the manner of God’s saving action in both creation and the Christian life. In creation, because all things were made through Christ and for him (cf. Col 1:16), Christians “gladly and reverently lay bare the seeds of the Word which lie hidden among their fellows; they ought to follow attentively the profound changes which are taking place among peoples” (Ad Gentes, 11). In the Christian life, the reception of Baptism brings the believer into the Church through the domestic church, namely, the family; thus beginning “a dynamic process [which] develops, one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God” (Familiaris Consortio, 9), in an ongoing conversion to a love which saves us from sin and gives us fullness of life.

14.       Jesus himself, referring to the original plan of the human couple, reaffirms the indissoluble union between a man and a woman and says to the Pharisees that “for your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so”(Mt 19: 8). The indissolubility of marriage (“what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” Mt 19:6), is not to be understood as a “yoke” imposed on persons but as a “gift” to a husband and wife united in marriage. In this way, Jesus shows how God’s humbling act of coming to earth might always accompany the human journey and might heal and transform a hardened heart with his grace, orientating it towards its benefit, by way of the cross. The Gospels make clear that Jesus’ example is paradigmatic for the Church. In fact, Jesus was born in a family; he began to work his signs at the wedding of Cana; and announced the meaning of marriage as the fullness of revelation which restores the original divine plan (Mt 19:3). At the same time, however, he put what he taught into practice and manifested the true meaning of mercy, clearly illustrated in his meeting with the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:1-30) and with the adulteress (Jn 8:1-11). By looking at the sinner with love, Jesus leads the person to repentance and conversion (“Go and sin no more”), which is the basis for forgiveness.

The Family in God’s Salvific Plan

15.       The words of eternal life, which Jesus gave to his disciples, included the teaching on marriage and the family. Jesus’ teaching allows us to distinguish three basic stages in God’s plan for marriage and the family. In the beginning, there is the original family, when God the Creator instituted the first marriage between Adam and Eve as the solid foundation of the family. God not only created human beings male and female (Gen 1:27), but he also blessed them so they might be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28). For this reason, “a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and the two become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). This union was corrupted by sin and became the historical form of marriage among the People of God, for which Moses granted the possibility of issuing a bill of divorce (cf. Dt 24: 1ff.). This was the principal practice in the time of Jesus. With Christ’s coming and  his reconciling a fallen world through his redemption, the period begun by Moses ended.          

16.       Jesus, who reconciled all things in himself, restored marriage and the family to their original form (Mk 10:1-12). Marriage and the family have been redeemed by Christ (Eph 5:21-32), restored in the image of the Holy Trinity, the mystery from which every true love flows. The spousal covenant, originating in creation and revealed in the history of salvation, receives its full meaning in Christ and his Church. Through his Church, Christ bestows on marriage and the family the grace necessary to witness to the love of God and to live the life of communion. The Gospel of the Family spans the history of the world from the creation of man in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1: 26-27) until it reaches, at the end of time, its fulfilment in the mystery of the Christ’s Covenant with the wedding of Lamb (cf. Rev 19: 9) (cf. John Paul II, Catechesis on Human Love).

The Family in the Church’s Documents

17.       “Throughout the centuries, the Church has maintained her constant teaching on marriage and family. One of the highest expressions of this teaching was proposed by the Second Vatican Council, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, which devotes an entire chapter to promoting the dignity of marriage and the family (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 47-52). This document defined marriage as a community of life and love (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 48), placing love at the center of the family and manifesting, at the same time, the truth of this love in counter distinction to the various forms of reductionism present in contemporary culture. The ‘true love between husband and wife’ (Gaudium et Spes, 49) implies a mutual gift of self and includes and integrates the sexual and affective aspects, according to the divine plan (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 48-49). Furthermore, Gaudium et Spes, 48 emphasizes the grounding of the spouses in Christ. Christ the Lord ‘comes into the lives of married Christians through the Sacrament of Matrimony,’ and remains with them. In the Incarnation, he assumes human love, purifies it and brings it to fulfillment. Through his Spirit, he enables the bride and groom to live their love and makes that love permeate every part of their lives of faith, hope and charity. In this way, the bride and groom are, so to speak, consecrated and, through his grace, they build up the Body of Christ and are a domestic church (cf. Lumen Gentium, 11), so that the Church, in order fully to understand her mystery, looks to the Christian family, which manifests her in a real way” (Instrumentum Laboris, 4).

 18.       “In the wake of Vatican II, the papal Magisterium has further refined the doctrine on marriage and the family. In a special way, Blessed Pope Paul VI, in his Encyclical Humanae Vitae, displayed the intimate bond between conjugal love and the generation of life. Pope St. John Paul II devoted special attention to the family in his catechesis on human love, his Letter to Families (Gratissimam Sane) and, especially, his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio. In these documents, the Pope called the family the ‘way of the Church,’ gave an overview on the vocation of man and woman to love and proposed the basic guidelines for the pastoral care of the family and the presence of the family in society. In specifically treating ‘conjugal love’ (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 13), he described how the spouses, through their mutual love, receive the gift of the Spirit of Christ and live their call to holiness” (Instrumentum Laboris, 5)

19.       “Pope Benedict XVI, in his Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, again took up the topic of the truth of the love between man and woman, which is fully understood only in light of the love of Christ Crucified (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 2). The Pope emphasized that ‘marriage based on an exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love’ (Deus Caritas Est, 11). Moreover, in his Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, he emphasizes the importance of love as the principle of life in society (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 44), the place where a person learns to experience the common good” (Instrumentum Laboris, 6).

20.       “Pope Francis, in his Encyclical Lumen Fidei, treating the connection between the family and faith, writes: ‘Encountering Christ, letting themselves (young people) be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives it a firm hope which will not disappoint. Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God’s faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness’ (Lumen Fidei, 53)” (Instrumentum Laboris, 7).

The Indissolubility of Marriage and the Joy of Sharing Life Together

21.       Mutual self-giving in the Sacrament of Marriage is grounded in the grace of Baptism, which establishes in all its recipients a foundational covenant with Christ in the Church. In accepting each other and with Christ’s grace, the engaged couple promises a total self-giving, faithfulness and openness to new life. The married couple recognizes these elements as constitutive in marriage, gifts offered to them by God, which they take seriously in their mutual commitment, in God’s name and in the presence of the Church. Faith facilitates the possibility of assuming the benefits of marriage as commitments which are sustainable through the help of the grace of the Sacrament. God consecrates the love of husband and wife and confirms the indissoluble character of their love, offering them assistance to live their faithfulness, mutual complementarity and openness to new life. Therefore, the Church looks to married couples as the heart of the entire family, which, in turn, looks to Jesus.

22.       From the same perspective, in keeping with the teaching of the Apostle who said that the whole of creation was planned in Christ and for him (cf. Col 1:16), the Second Vatican Council wished to express appreciation for natural marriage and the valid elements present in other religions (cf. Nostra Aetate, 2) and cultures, despite their limitations and shortcomings (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 55). The presence of the seeds of the Word in these cultures (cf. Ad Gentes, 11) could even be applied, in some ways,  to marriage and the family in so many societies and non-Christian peoples. Valid elements, therefore, exist in some forms outside of Christian marriage  —  based on a stable and true relationship of a man and a woman  —  which, in any case, might be oriented towards Christian marriage. With an eye to the popular wisdom of different peoples and cultures, the Church also recognizes this type of family as the basic, necessary and fruitful unit for humanity’s life together.

The Truth and Beauty of the Family and Mercy Towards Broken and Fragile Families

23.       With inner joy and deep comfort, the Church looks to families who remain faithful to the teachings of the Gospel, encouraging them and thanking them for the testimony they offer. In fact, they witness, in a credible way, to the beauty of an indissoluble marriage, while always remaining faithful to each other. Within the family, “which could be called a domestic church” (Lumen Gentium, 11), a person begins a Church experience of communion among persons, which reflects, through grace, the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. “In a family, a person learns endurance, the joy of work, fraternal love, and generosity in forgiving others  —  repeatedly at times  —  and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1657). The Holy Family of Nazareth is a wondrous model in whose school we “understand why we have to maintain spiritual discipline, if we wish to follow the teachings of the Gospel and become Christ’s disciples” (Blessed Pope Paul VI, Address at Nazareth, 5 January 1964). The Gospel of the Family also nourishes the seeds which are still waiting to grow; and serves as the basis for caring for those trees which might have withered and need treatment.

24.       The Church, a sure teacher and caring mother, recognizes that the only marriage bond for those who are baptized is sacramental and any breach of it is against the will of God. At the same time, the Church is conscious of the weakness of many of her children who are struggling in their journey of faith. “Consequently, without detracting from the evangelical ideal, they need to accompany with mercy and patience the eventual stages of personal growth as these progressively occur. […] A small step in the midst of great human limitations can be more pleasing to God than a life which outwardly appears in order and passes the day without confronting great difficulties. Everyone needs to be touched by the comfort and attraction of God’s saving love, which is mysteriously at work in each person, above and beyond their faults and failings”(Gaudium Evangelii, 44).

25.       In considering a pastoral approach towards people who have contracted a civil marriage, who are divorced and remarried or simply living together, the Church has the responsibility of helping them understand the divine pedagogy of grace in their lives and offering them assistance so they can reach the fullness of the God’s plan for them. Looking to Christ, whose light illumines every person (cf. Jn 1: 9; Gaudium et Spes, 22), the Church turns with love to those who participate in her life in an incomplete manner, recognizing that the grace of God works also in their lives by giving them the courage to do good, to care for one another in love and to be of service to the community in which they live and work.

26.       The Church looks with concern at the distrust of many young people in relation to a commitment in marriage and suffers at the haste with which many of the faithful decide to put an end to the obligation they  assumed and to take on another. These lay people, who are members of the Church, need pastoral attention which is merciful and encouraging, so they might adequately determine their situation. Young people, who are baptized, should be encouraged to understand that the Sacrament of Marriage can enrich their prospects of love and they can be sustained by the grace of Christ in the Sacrament and by the possibility of participating fully in the life of the Church.

27.       In this regard, a new aspect of family ministry is requiring attention today  —  the reality of civil marriages between a man and woman, traditional marriages and, taking into consideration the differences involved, even cohabitation. When a union reaches a particular stability, legally recognized, characterized by deep affection and responsibility for  children and showing an ability to overcome trials, these unions can offer occasions for guidance with an eye towards the eventual celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage. Oftentimes, a couple lives together without the possibility of a future marriage and without any intention of a legally binding relationship.

28.       .In accordance with Christ’s mercy, the Church must accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children, who show signs of a wounded and lost love, by restoring in them hope and confidence, like the beacon of a lighthouse in a port or a torch carried among the people to enlighten those who have lost their way or who are in the midst of a storm. Conscious that the most merciful thing is to tell the truth in love, we go beyond compassion. Merciful love, as it attracts and unites, transforms and elevates. It is an invitation to conversion. We understand the Lord’s attitude in the same way; he does not condemn the adulterous woman, but asks her to sin no more (Jn 8: 1-11).

 

Part III

Facing the Situation: Pastoral Perspectives

Proclaiming the Gospel of the Family Today in Various Contexts

29.        Discussion at the synod has allowed for agreement on some of the more urgent pastoral needs to be addressed in the particular Churches, in communion cum Petro et sub Petro. Proclaiming the Gospel of the Family is urgently needed in the work of evangelization. The Church has to carry this out with the tenderness of a mother and the clarity of a teacher (cf. Eph 4: 15), in faithfulness to the mercy displayed in Christ’s kenosis. Truth became flesh in human weakness, not to condemn it but to save it (cf. Gn 3: 16, 17).

30.        Evangelizing is the shared responsibility of all God’s people, each according to one’s  ministry and charism. Without the joyous testimony of married people and families,  proclamation, even if done in its proper way, risks being misunderstood or lost in a flurry of words which is characteristic of society today (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte, 50). On various occasions, the synod fathers emphasized that Catholic families, by reason of the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage, are called upon to be the active agents in every pastoral activity on behalf of the family.

31.        The primacy of grace needs to be highlighted and, consequently, the possibilities which the Spirit provides in the Sacrament. It is a question of allowing people to experience that the Gospel of the Family is a joy which “fills hearts and lives”, because in Christ we are “set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness” (Evangelii Gaudium, 1). Bearing in mind the Parable of the Sower (cf. Mt 13; 3), our task is to cooperate in the sowing; the rest is God’s work; nor must we forget that, in preaching about the family, the Church is a sign of contradiction.

32.        Consequently, this work calls for missionary conversion by everyone in the Church, that is, not stopping at proclaiming a message which is perceived to be merely theoretical, with no connection to people’s real problems. We must continually bear in mind that the crisis of faith has led to a crisis in marriage and the family and, consequently, the transmission of faith itself from parents to children has often been interrupted. If we confront the situation with a strong faith, the imposition of certain cultural perspectives which weaken the family is of no importance.

33.        Conversion also needs to be seen in the language we use, so that it might prove to be effectively meaningful. Proclamation needs to create an experience where the Gospel of the Family responds to the deepest expectations of a person: a response to each’s dignity and complete fulfillment in reciprocity, communion and fruitfulness. This does not consist in merely presenting a set of rules but in espousing values, which respond to the needs of those who find themselves today, even in the most secularized of countries.

34.        The Word of God is the source of life and spirituality for the family. All pastoral work on behalf of the family must allow people to be interiorly fashioned and formed as members of the domestic church through the Church’s prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture. The Word of God is not only good news in a person’s private life, but also a criterion of judgment and a light in discerning the various challenges which married couples and families encounter.

35.        At the same time, many synod fathers insisted on a more positive approach to the richness of various religious experiences, without overlooking the inherent difficulties. In these different religious realities and in the great cultural diversity which characterizes countries, the positive possibilities should be appreciated first and then on this basis evaluate their limitations and deficiencies.

36.        Christian marriage is a vocation which is undertaken with due preparation in a journey of faith  with a proper process of discernment and is not to be considered only a cultural tradition or social or legal requirement. Therefore, formation is needed to accompany the person and couple in such a way that the real-life experience of the entire ecclesial community can be added to the teaching of the contents of the faith.

37.        The synod fathers repeatedly called for a thorough renewal of the Church’s pastoral practice in light of the Gospel of the Family and replacing its current emphasis on individuals. For this reason, the synod fathers repeatedly insisted on renewal in the training of priests and other pastoral workers with a greater involvement of families.

38.        They equally highlighted the fact that evangelization needs to clearly denounce cultural, social, political and economic factors, such as the excessive importance given to market logic which  prevents authentic family life and leads to discrimination, poverty, exclusion, and violence. Consequently, dialogue and cooperation need to be developed with the social entities and encouragement given to Christian lay people who are involved in the cultural and socio-political fields.

Guiding Engaged Couples in Their Preparation for Marriage

39.       The complex social reality and the changes affecting the family today require a greater effort on the part of the whole Christian community in preparing those who are about to be married. The importance of the virtues needs to be included, among these chastity which is invaluable in the genuine growth of love between persons. In this regard, the synod fathers jointly insisted on the need to involve more extensively the entire community by favouring the witness of families themselves and including preparation for marriage in the course of Christian Initiation as well as emphasizing the connection between marriage and the other sacraments. Likewise, they felt that specific programmes were needed in preparing couples for marriage, programmes which create a true experience of participation in ecclesial life and thoroughly treat the various aspects of family life.

Accompanying the Married Couple in the Initial Years of Marriage

40.       The initial years of marriage are a vital and sensitive period during which couples become more aware of the challenges and meaning of married life. Consequently, pastoral accompaniment needs to go beyond the actual celebration of the Sacrament (Familiaris Consortio, Part III). In this regard, experienced couples are of great importance in any pastoral activity. The parish is the ideal place for these experienced couples to be of service to younger couples. Married couples need encouragement in a basic openness to the great gift of children. The importance of a family spirituality and prayer needs emphasis so couples might be encouraged to meet regularly to promote growth in their spiritual life and solidarity in the concrete demands of life. Meaningful liturgies, devotional practices and the Eucharist celebrated for entire families were mentioned as vital factors in fostering evangelization through the family.

Pastoral Care for Couples Civilly Married or Living Together

41.        While continuing to proclaim and foster Christian marriage, the Synod also encourages pastoral discernment of the situations of a great many who no longer live this reality. Entering into pastoral dialogue with these persons is needed to distinguish elements in their lives which can lead to a greater openness to the Gospel of Marriage in its fullness. Pastors ought to identify elements which can foster evangelization and human and spiritual growth. A new element in today’s pastoral activity is a sensitivity to the positive aspects of civilly celebrated marriages and, with obvious differences, cohabitation. While clearly presenting the Christian message, the Church also needs to indicate the constructive elements in these situations which do not yet or no longer correspond to it.

42.       The synod fathers also noted in many countries an “an increasing number of people live together ad experimentum, in unions which have not been religiously or civilly recognized” (Instrumentum Laboris, 81). In some countries, this occurs especially in traditional marriages which are arranged between families and often celebrated in different stages. Other countries are witnessing a continual increase in the number of those who, after having lived together for a long period, request the celebration of marriage in Church. Simply to live together is often a choice based on a general attitude opposed to anything institutional or definitive; it can also be done while awaiting more security in life (a steady job and income). Finally, in some countries de facto marriages are very numerous, not because of a rejection of Christian values concerning the family and matrimony but primarily because celebrating a marriage is too expensive. As a result, material poverty leads people into de facto unions.

43.       All these situations require a constructive response, seeking to transform them into opportunities which can lead to an actual marriage and a family in conformity with  the Gospel. These couples need to be provided for and guided patiently and discreetly. With this in mind, the witness of authentic Christian families is particularly appealing and important as agents in the evangelization of the family.

Caring for Broken families (Persons who are Separated, Divorced, Divorced and Remarried and Single-Parent Families)

44.       Married couples with problems in their relationship should be able to count on the assistance and guidance of the Church. The pastoral work of charity and mercy seeks to help persons recover and restore relationships. Experience shows that with proper assistance and acts of reconciliation, though grace, a great percentage of troubled marriages find a solution in a satisfying manner. To know how to forgive and to feel forgiven is a basic experience in family life. Forgiveness between husband and wife permits a couple to  experience a never-ending love which does not pass away (cf. 1 Cor 13:8). At times, this is difficult, but those who have received God’s forgiveness are given the strength to offer a genuine forgiveness which regenerates persons.

45.       The necessity for courageous pastoral choices was particularly evident at the Synod. Strongly reconfirming their faithfulness to the Gospel of the Family and acknowledging that separation and divorce are always wounds which causes deep suffering to the married couple and to their children, the synod fathers felt the urgent need to embark on a new pastoral course based on the present reality of weaknesses within the family, knowing oftentimes that couples are more “enduring” situations of suffering than freely choosing them. These situations vary because of personal, cultural and socio-economic factors. Therefore, solutions need to be considered in a variety of ways, as suggested by Pope St. John Paul II (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 84).

46.       All families should, above all, be treated with respect and love and accompanied on their journey as Christ accompanied the disciples on the road to Emmaus. In a particular way, the words of Pope Francis apply in these situations: “The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this ‘art of accompaniment’, which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3: 5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting a closeness and compassion which, at the same time, heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life” (Evangelii Gaudium, 169).

47.       A special discernment is indispensable for pastorally guiding persons who are separated, divorced or abandoned. Respect needs to be primarily given to the suffering of those who have unjustly endured separation, divorce or abandonment, or those who have been subjected to the maltreatment of a husband or a wife, which interrupts their life together. To forgive such an injustice is not easy, but grace makes this journey possible. Pastoral activity, then, needs to be geared towards reconciliation or mediation of differences, which might even take place in specialized “listening centres” established in dioceses. At the same time, the synod fathers emphasized the necessity of addressing, in a faithful and constructive fashion, the consequences of separation or divorce on children, in every case the innocent victims of the situation. Children must not become an “object” of contention. Instead, every suitable means ought to be sought to ensure that they can overcome the trauma of a family break-up and grow as serenely as possible. In each case, the Church is always to point out the injustice which very often is associated with divorce. Special attention is to be given in the guidance of single-parent families. Women in this situation ought to receive special assistance so they can bear the responsibility of providing a home and raising their children.

48.       A great number of synod fathers emphasized the need to make the procedure in cases of nullity more accessible and less time-consuming. They proposed, among others, the dispensation of the requirement of second instance for confirming sentences; the possibility of establishing an administrative means under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop; and a simple process to be used in cases where nullity is clearly evident. Some synod fathers, however, were opposed to this proposal, because they felt that it would not guarantee a reliable judgment. In all these cases, the synod fathers emphasized the primary character of ascertaining the truth about the validity of the marriage bond. Among other proposals, the role which faith plays in persons who marry could possibly be examined in ascertaining the validity of the Sacrament of Marriage, all the while maintaining that the marriage of two baptized Christians is always a sacrament.

49.       In streamlining the procedure of marriage cases, many synod fathers requested the preparation of a sufficient number of persons  —  clerics and lay people  —  entirely dedicated to this work, which will require the increased responsibility of the diocesan bishop, who could designate in his diocese specially trained counselors who would be able to offer free advice to the concerned parties on the validity of their marriage. This work could be done in an office or by qualified persons (cf. Dignitas Connubii, art. 113, 1).

50.       Divorced people who have not remarried, who oftentimes bear witness to their promise of faithfulness in marriage, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life. The local community and pastors ought to accompany these people with solicitude, particularly when children are involved or when in serious financial difficulty.

51.       Likewise, those who are divorced and remarried require careful discernment and an accompaniment of great respect. Language or behavior which might make them feel an object of discrimination should be avoided, all the while encouraging them to participate in the life of the community. The Christian community’s care of such persons is not to be considered a weakening of its faith and testimony to the indissolubility of marriage, but, precisely in this way, the community is seen to express its charity.

52.       The synod father also considered the possibility of giving the divorced and remarried  access to the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Some synod fathers insisted on maintaining the present regulations, because of the constitutive relationship between participation in the Eucharist and communion with the Church as well as the teaching on the indissoluble character of marriage. Others expressed a more individualized  approach, permitting access in certain situations and with certain well-defined conditions, primarily in irreversible situations and those involving moral obligations towards children who would have to endure unjust suffering. Access to the sacraments might take place if preceded by a penitential practice, determined by the diocesan bishop. The subject needs to be thoroughly examined, bearing in mind the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances, given that “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1735).

53.       Some synod fathers maintained that divorced and remarried persons or those living together can have fruitful recourse to a spiritual communion. Others raised the question as to why, then, they cannot have access “sacramentally”. As a result, the synod fathers requested that further theological study in the matter might point out the specifics of the two forms and their association with the theology of marriage.

54.       The problems relative to mixed marriages were frequently raised in the interventions of the synod fathers. The differences in the matrimonial regulations of the Orthodox Churches creates serious problems in some cases, which require due consideration in the work of ecumenism. Analogously, the contribution of the dialogue with other religions would be important for interreligious marriages.

Pastoral Attention towards Persons with Homosexual Tendencies

55.       Some families have members who have a homosexual tendency. In this regard, the synod fathers asked themselves what pastoral attention might be appropriate for them in accordance with the Church’s teaching: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”Nevertheless, men and women with a homosexual tendency ought to be received with respect and sensitivity. “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” )Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 4(.

56.        Exerting pressure in this regard on the Pastors of the Church is totally unacceptable: this is equally so for international organizations who link their financial assistance to poorer countries with the introduction of laws which establish “marriage” between persons of the same sex.

The Transmission of Life and the Challenges of a Declining Birthrate

57.       Today, the diffusion of a mentality which reduces the generation of human life to accommodate an individual’s or couple’s plans is easily observable. Sometimes, economic factors are burdensome, contributing to a sharp drop in the birthrate which weakens the social fabric, thus compromising relations between generations and rendering a future outlook uncertain. Openness to life is an intrinsic requirement of married love. In this regard, the Church supports families who accept, raise and affectionately embrace children with various disabilities.

58.       Pastoral work in this area needs to start with listening to people and acknowledging the beauty and truth of an unconditional openness to life, which is needed, if human life is to be lived fully. This serves as the basis for an appropriate teaching regarding the natural methods for responsible procreation, which allow a couple to live, in a harmonious and conscious manner, the loving communication between husband and wife in all its aspects, along with their responsibility at procreating life. In this regard, we should return to the message of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae of Blessed Pope Paul VI, which highlights the need to respect the dignity of the person in morally assessing methods in regulating births. The adoption of children, orphans and the abandoned and accepting them as one’s own is a specific form of the family apostolate (cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem, III, 11), and oftentimes called for and encouraged by the Magisterium (cf. Familiaris Consortio, III, II; Evangelium Vitae, IV, 93). The choice of adoption or foster parenting expresses a particular fruitfulness of married life, not simply in the case of sterility. Such a choice is a powerful sign of family love, an occasion to witness to one’s faith and to restore the dignity of a son or daughter to a person who has been deprived of this dignity.

59.       Affectivity needs assistance, also in marriage, as a path to maturity in the ever-deepening  acceptance of the other and an ever-fuller gift of self. This necessitates offering programmes of formation which nourish married life and the importance of the laity providing an accompaniment, which consists in a life of witness. Undoubtedly, the example of a faithful and deep love is of great assistance; a love shown in tenderness and respect; a love which is capable of growing over time; and a love which, in the very act of opening itself to the generation of life, creates a transcendent mystical experience.

Upbringing and the Role of the Family in Evangelization

60.       One of the fundamental challenges facing families today is undoubtedly that of raising children, made all the more difficult and complex by today’s cultural reality and the great influence of the media. Consideration, then, needs to be given to the needs and expectations of families, who are able to bear witness, in their daily lives, to the family as a place of growth in the concrete and essential transmission of the virtues which give form to our existence. Parents, then, are able freely to choose the type of education for their children, according to their convictions.

61.       In this regard, the Church can assume a valuable role in supporting families, starting with Christian Initiation, by being welcoming communities. More than ever, these communities today are to offer support to parents, in complex situations and everyday life, in their work of raising their children, accompanying children, adolescents and young people in their development through personalized pastoral programmes, capable of introducing them to the full meaning of life and encouraging them in their choices and responsibilities, lived in the light of the Gospel. Mary, in her tenderness, mercy and maternal sensitivity can nourish the hunger of humanity and life itself. Therefore, families and the Christian people should seek her intercession. Pastoral work and Marian devotion are an appropriate starting point for proclaiming the Gospel of the Family.

 

Conclusion

62.       These proposed reflections, the fruit of the synodal work which took place in great freedom and with a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate points of view which will later be developed and clarified through reflection in the local Churches in the intervening year leading to the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, scheduled for October, 2015, to treat The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World. These are not decisions taken nor are they easy subjects. Nevertheless, in the collegial journey of the bishops and with the involvement of all God’s people, the Holy Spirit  will guide us in finding the road to truth and mercy for all. This has been the wish of Pope Francis from the beginning of our work, when he invited us to be courageous in faith and to humbly and honestly embrace the truth in charity.

 [03044-02.01] [Original text: Italian]

 

Voting on individual paragraphs of the Relatio Synodi

Total number of synod fathers present: 183. Abstentions are not included. 

PLACET = for; NON PLACET =against)

 

placet

non placet

1.

175

1

2.

179

0

3.

178

1

4.

180

2

5.

177

3

6.

175

5

7.

170

9

8.

179

1

9.

171

8

10.

174

8

11.

173

6

12.

176

3

13.

174

7

14.

164

18

15.

167

13

16.

171

8

17.

174

6

18.

175

5

19.

176

5

20.

178

3

21.

181

1

22.

160

22

23.

169

10

24.

170

11

25.

140

39

26.

166

14

27.

147

34

28.

152

27

29.

176

7

30.

178

2

31.

175

4

32.

176

5

33.

175

7

34.

180

1

35.

164

17

36.

177

1

37.

175

2

38.

178

1

39.

176

4

40.

179

1

41.

125

54

42.

143

37

43.

162

14

44.

171

7

45.

165

15

46.

171

8

47.

164

12

48.

143

35

49.

154

23

50.

169

8

51.

155

19

52.

104

74

53.

112

64

54.

145

29

55.

118

62

56.

159

21

57.

169

5

58.

167

9

59.

172

5

60.

174

4

61.

178

1

62.

169

8

Posted in Uncategorized

From the synod (11): Pope’s speech following vote

[From Austen Ivereigh in Rome] Last night, the synod fathers voted overwhelmingly in favour of a revised relatio, although three paragraphs out of 62 failed to reach a two-thirds majority, thereby showing the need for further discernment and discussion on access to sacraments for the divorced and remarried and homosexuality. The document, which will be analyse in a further post after the English translation is released, will form the basis for the discussion over the next year leading up to the Ordinary Synod in October 2015. 

Following the vote, Pope Francis gave what many afterwards described as a great speech, which was met with a long standing ovation. Below is Vatican Radio’s unofficial translation of the address, which was given in Italian. 

Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,

With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.

From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.

I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!

I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

- One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

- The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

- The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

- The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

- The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of  their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it… that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.
One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!

Posted in Synod2014