"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Sunday, 5 October 2014


The Synod is taking place after an unprecedented test of Catholic opinion throughout the Church.

Thousands of the Catholic Faithful praying for the Synod

'A new balance'
One issue likely to be the focus of intense debate at the synod is the admission of divorced people to Communion.

At present this is not permitted, although the pontiff has hinted that some relaxation in the rules regarding the annulment of marriages, a costly and time-consuming process, might be possible in the future.

He has already set up a committee to examine the possibility of simplifying the procedure, which in effect declares there never was a valid marriage, so the people involved are free to marry again.

Pope Francis' own views on sexuality are conditioned by years of working in the teeming slums of Buenos Aires.

He stresses the importance of understanding the problems faced by the poor, rather than focussing only on obedience to unbending rules.

"We cannot insist only upon issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraception," Pope Francis said in a long interview with a fellow Jesuit, a little over a year ago.

"The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent," he said. "The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines… We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards."

The 263 participants in the Synod of the Family are almost all celibate males, with no first-hand experience of creating their own families, although a dozen hand-picked Roman Catholic married couples will sit in and share their experience with the synod "fathers".

Pope Francis will address the synod when it opens but intends to use the meeting mainly as a listening experience.

He wants the world's bishops to involve themselves freely in the future governance of the Church, rather than being relegated to the sidelines, as at many previous synods, when the agenda was set and proceedings were tightly controlled by the powerful cardinals of the Roman Curia, the central government of the Church, based inside in the Vatican.

Extraordinary synods are rare and called to address urgent challenges faced by the Church. This one will be watched particularly closely, both inside and outside the Church - whose future could depend on what emerges.

The Pope exchanges pleasanteries with a cardinal as he leaves after the Mass
on October 5th, at the beginning of the Synod.

(click on title)
The Basic Discussion Document for Members of the Synod
in English

From the NCR:  Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who serves on a 15-member council of bishops that advise the Vatican synod office, also spoke about the upcoming meeting with comments from the floor of the bishops' assembly.

One "big difference" with the synod now, Wuerl said, is that Francis personally attends its meetings.  "He has spent a total of six hours over two days with us every time we meet," Wuerl said. "It's clear that he wants to be engaged in the development."  "Our Holy Father has made it clear that this is a process," Wuerl continued. "A process of listening ... invoking the Holy Spirit in guiding us as we go forward."

Presentation of the Instrumentum Laboris for the Next Synod Assembly in October, Vatican City, 26 June 2014 (VIS) 
– A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office this morning to present the Instrumentum Laboris of the 3rd Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (5-19 October 2014) which will focus on “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation”. The speakers were Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops; Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, and relator general of the 3rd Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops; Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, France and delegate president; Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, Italy, and special secretary, and Professors Francesco Miano and Pina De Simone.

Cardinal Baldisseri explained that the Instrumentum Laboris consists of three parts, conforming to the themes of the Documento Preparatorio. “The first, dedicated to the Gospel of the family, relates to God's plan, biblical and magisterial knowledge and their reception, natural law and the vocation of the person in Christ”, he said. “The difficulties that arise in relation to natural law can be overcome through more attentive reference to the biblical world, to its language and narrative forms, and to the proposal to thematise and deepen the biblically-inspired concept of the 'order of creation', like the possibility of reinterpreting 'natural law' in a more existentially meaningful way. Furthermore, the role of the family, 'fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another', is that of a privileged space for values such as fraternity, love, respect and solidarity between generations, where dignity is promoted, overcoming individualism and contributing to the common good of society”.

“The second part relates to the pastoral challenges inherent in the family, such as the crisis of faith, critical internal situations, external pressures and other problems. The responsibilities of the pastor include preparation for marriage, increasingly necessary nowadays to enable engaged couples make their decision in terms of their personal adhesion to faith to the Lord, to build their families on solid foundations”.

He emphasised that special consideration would be given to difficult pastoral situations, such as unmarried couples who live together and de facto unions, separated and divorced couples, remarried divorcees and eventual further children, single mothers, those who are in canonically irregular situations and non-believers or non-practising Catholics who wish to marry”. The prelate added that with regard to the phenomenon of unmarried couples who live together and de facto unions, increasingly widespread, “the Church has the duty to accompany these couples in the trust that they are able to bear a responsibility, such as that of marriage, that is not too great for them”. In relation to the question of remarried divorcees, whose irregular condition within the Church is a source of suffering, the Instrumentum Laboris “offers real knowledge of their situation, from which the Church is required to find solutions compatible with her teaching and which lead to a serene and reconciled life. In this respect, the need to simplify the judicial procedures for the annulment of marriage would appear relevant”.

“Regarding same-sex unions, a distinction is made between the contexts in which civil legislation is more or less in favour; there is a need for pastoral care on the part of the particular Churches in these situations, including matters relating to children who may be present”.

The third part first presents themes linked to openness to life, such as knowledge and difficulties in receiving the Magisterium, pastoral suggestions, sacramental praxis and the promotion of a mentality open to life. … With regard to the educative responsibility of parents, difficulty emerges in terms of transmitting faith to children, which is then made concrete in Christian initiation; finally, this is a matter of Christian education in difficult family situations, in which the effects on the children extend to the sphere of faith and methods of celebration of the sacraments”.

Cardinal Baldisseri mentioned that the themes not included in the document will be considered in the Ordinary General Assembly scheduled for 4-25 October 2015, based on the theme “Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the family”. This will be the third stage in the process of reflection on the family, which began with the Consistory held on 20 February 2014.

Finally, he explained that the Instrumentum Laboris offers a vision of the reality of the family in the current context, which represents the beginning of a profound reflection, which will take place in the two stages of the Extraordinary General Assembly (2014) and the Ordinary General Assembly (2015), which are closely linked by the theme of the family based on the light of Christ's Gospel. The results of the first, the Extraordinary Assembly, will be used in the preparation of the Instrumentum Laboris of the subsequent Ordinary Assembly, which will be made known only after the publication of the final document, subject to the decision of the Holy Father....

Pope Francis: Vatican begins landmark synod to discuss family life
James Reynolds reports on divisions within the Catholic Church

Pope Francis has opened a gathering of more than 200 senior Roman Catholic bishops by urging them not to impose what he called "intolerable moral burdens" on believers.

The gathering, known as a synod, is discussing the Church's position on controversial issues.

They will be joined by lay Catholics to debate abortion, contraception, homosexuality and divorce.

The synod will last two weeks and no immediate changes are expected.

At a Mass opening the gathering, the Pope said he hoped bishops would participate freely in the discussions.

"Synod gatherings are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent," Pope Francis said. Rather, it's an opportunity to "work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity," he said.

Previous synods have had set agendas, with proceedings tightly controlled by the powerful cardinals of the Roman Curia, the central government of the Church, correspondents say.

Pope Francis’s Family Synod Forgoes Flash for Spiritual Depth

Elizabeth Dias/Vatican City @elizabethjdias
my source: Time

It can be easy to fixate on the idea that the Extraordinary Synod on the Family beginning in Rome this week is purely about Catholic Church politics. The world clamors for the latest Catholic hubbub about divorce and remarriage policies, annulment reform, and which Cardinal holds which position on what agenda or controversial marital issue. But something more is happening as bishops gather for the first major doctrinal and pastoral summit of the Francis papacy; something quieter, deeper, and less immediately obvious: a spiritual renewal that Pope Francis hopes to foster between church leaders and their people.

This spiritual undercurrent, although quiet, has been powerfully present in the Holy Father’s actions this weekend. On Saturday evening, before the synod officially began and as a pink sun set behind St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis called the people to gather in the piazza to pray for the upcoming two-weeks of Synod conversations. A choir chanted a hymn as tens of thousands of people arrived, each silently, most with their families. When dusk fell and the moon had risen, each person lit a candle, and thousands of drops of light filled the square. Vieni Santo Spirito, vieni, or Come Holy Spirit, come, the people sang with the choir, over and over. “May the Wind of Pentecost blow upon the Synod’s work, on the Church, and on all of humanity,” Francis told to the crowd. “Undo the knots which prevent people from encountering one another, heal the wounds that bleed, rekindle hope.”

This prayer service was more testimony to the conviction that any real change in the Church must start with prayer—and a reminder of the people themselves. They, these people, these families, are the reason Francis called this Extraordinary Synod in the first place. It is only the third such special meeting a Pope has called since the Synod of the Bishops was created in 1965. The crowd was so vast that Francis himself most surely could not see the details—the children playing with their candles and dripping wax in patterns on the pavers, mothers comforting crying babies, a son helping a grandmother to a chair, the teenage couple taking selfies—but these are the people who experience the issues of family and marriage in ways clergy, who are celibate, rarely do. He was telling the people that they were foremost on his mind as the Synod began.

Francis was also reminding the bishops that the people were foremost on his mind. Most of the church leaders present Saturday evening had just arrived in Rome after having prepared for the Synod for a year, surveying their own congregations about modern family life for their peers’ review these coming weeks. Now, Francis stood before them and the first thing he did was to gather them to encounter the people and their sparks of light. Only when the service ended did he turn to greet the cardinals, one by one. The liturgical message about his priorities, and their priorities in turn, was hard to miss.

If the Holy Father’s Saturday prayer service was about the people, his Sunday mass turned to the bishops. Inside St. Peter’s Basilica, standing beneath Michelangelo’s dome and above St. Peter’s tomb, the Holy Father gave a pointed homily about the bishops’ role. The job of leaders, he preached, is to nurture the vineyard—a Biblical image for the people of God. “Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent,” he preached. “We are all sinners and can also be tempted to ‘take over’ the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants. We can ‘thwart’ God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit.”

His meaning was clear. This meeting is not a time for the bishops to each shine with their own debates, Francis was saying, but rather a time to focus on the people and what the people need. It is, as he put it, about developing “plans [that] will correspond to God’s dream: to form a holy people who are his own and produce the fruits of the kingdom of God.”

The next two weeks will be telling. Francis is presiding over the world’s last truly medieval court, which can at times appear to revert to high school drama and power plays. But the spiritual moments that have shaped the Synod’s start are a concrete reminder that Francis the pastor is the one calling the shots. He’s the one walking the incense around the papal altar at mass, he’s the one celebrating Eucharist, and he’s the one determining where the ultimate emphasis is placed. He is the one in St. Peter’s seat. The bishops are there at his request. It’s the tone he sets that matters.

Pope opens Synod criticizing 'bad shepherds,' those who 'thwart' God

Joshua J. McElwee  |  Oct. 5, 2014
my source: National Catholic Reporter
VATICAN CITY Pope Francis opened a worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops Sunday -- a possible landmark of his papacy -- by warning against "bad shepherds" who unduly burden the faithful and who "thwart" God by not being guided by the Holy Spirit.
Francis was speaking in a homily during the opening Mass for the meeting, known as a Synod and focusing on modern struggles of family life, in St. Peter's Basilica.

Referring to the Mass readings for the day and to the prophet Ezekiel’s warning about shepherds who care for themselves and not their sheep, the pontiff said some shepherds become tempted by "greed for money and power."

"To satisfy this greed bad shepherds lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move," said Francis.

The pontiff also laid out clearly what the Synod is not to do.

"Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent," said the pontiff. "They are meant to better nurture and tend the Lord's vineyard, to help realize his dream, his loving plan for his people."

Francis' words Sunday are likely to be met with much speculation over what direction the pontiff hopes the Synod, in which some 190 bishops and cardinals will discuss family life topics in closed-door sessions Oct. 6-19, will take.

Preparations for the event, the first of two synods on the topic in 2014 and 2015, have raised expectations that some of the church's pastoral practices regarding family life might change, particularly about how the church cares for the divorced and remarried.

Referring to the Gospel reading Sunday -- a parable from Jesus in Matthew's Gospel about tenants who take over the owner's vineyard -- Francis said bishops can also "be tempted to 'take over' the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings."

"God's dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants," said Francis. "We can 'thwart' God's dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit."

"The Spirit gives us that wisdom which surpasses knowledge, and enables us to work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity," he continued.

Francis' words Sunday followed similar remarks the pontiff made Saturday evening in a prayer vigil in St. Peter's Square for the opening of the Synod.

Addressing tens of thousands of people in the Square, the pontiff called for the group to "invoke an openness toward a sincere discussion, open and fraternal, which leads us to carry with pastoral responsibility the questions that this change in epoch brings."

The bishops' work during the Synod, which will take place behind closed-doors in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, starts formally Monday morning with opening addresses from the prelates leading the event.

There are some 190 prelates who will be present and will be able to vote in the discussions. Some 60 others, mainly non-prelates, have been selected in other roles and will be able to contribute to discussions but not to vote.

Monday afternoon through Thursday evening, the bishops will open each of their meetings with an announcement of the theme for that session, followed by a testimony by a married couple on the theme.

After one week of their meetings, the bishops are to create a draft of a working document for the synod that will then be worked on during the second week of meetings to result in a final document for the synod, to be delivered to the pope.

One cardinal speaking to NCR Saturday said the Synod was to focus on the lived realities of people today.

"In the end, what we're talking about always are people's lives," said Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who is the archbishop of Westminster and is attending the Synod as the president of the bishops' conference of England and Wales.

"We have to be dealing with these things sensitively, pastorally -- and giving ourselves the space to accompany individuals, real people, in their actual situation," he said.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.

Homily of Pope Francis - Opening Mass of the Synod on the Family

Today the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel employ the image of the Lord’s vineyard. The Lord’s vineyard is his "dream", the plan which he nurtures with all his love, like a farmer who cares for his vineyard. Vines are plants which need much care!

God’s "dream" is his people. He planted it and nurtured it with patient and faithful love, so that it can become a holy people, a people which brings forth abundant fruits of justice.

But in both the ancient prophecy and in Jesus’ parable, God’s dream is thwarted. Isaiah says that the vine which he so loved and nurtured has yielded "wild grapes" (5:2,4); God "expected justice but saw bloodshed, righteousness, but only a cry of distress" (v. 7). In the Gospel, it is the farmers themselves who ruin the Lord’s plan: they fail to do their job but think only of their own interests.

In Jesus’ parable, he is addressing the chief priests and the elders of the people, in other words the "experts", the managers. To them in a particular way God entrusted his "dream", his people, for them to nurture, tend and protect from the animals of the field. This is the job of leaders: to nuture the vineyard with freedom, creativity and hard work.

But Jesus tells us that those farmers took over the vineyard. Out of greed and pride they want to do with it as they will, and so they prevent God from realizing his dream for the people he has chosen.

The temptation to greed is ever present. We encounter it also in the great prophecy of Ezekiel on the shepherds (cf. ch. 34), which Saint Augustine commented upon in one his celebrated sermons which we have just reread in the Liturgy of the Hours. Greed for money and power. And to satisfy this greed, evil pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move (cf. Mt 23:4)

We too, in the Synod of Bishops, are called to work for the Lord’s vineyard. Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent… They are meant to better nuture and tend the Lord’s vineyard, to help realize his dream, his loving plan for his people. In this case the Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity.

We are all sinners and can also be tempted to "take over" the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants. We can "thwart" God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us that wisdom which surpasses knowledge, and enables us to work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity.

My Synod brothers, to do a good job of nurturing and tending the vineyard, our hearts and our minds must be kept in Jesus Christ by "the peace of God which passes all understanding" (Phil 4:7). In this way our thoughts and plans will correspond to God’s dream: to form a holy people who are his own and produce the fruits of the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 21:43).

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