- Trying to square the circle
The opening days of the Synod on the Family have revealed distinct differences of opinion between the participants. How can their commitment to church teaching be matched with compassion for those who struggle with it?
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Pope Francis has written to families ahead of October’s Synod on the challenges they face, asking for their “crucial” support in prayer.
He said that “lay faithful of the particular Churches of the entire world” as well as clergy and Religious will attend the synod, which will focus on “the Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelisation”.
“This Synodal Assembly is dedicated in a special way to you, to your vocation and mission in the Church and in society; to the challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the Church,” he wrote.
“May we all, then, pray together so that through these events the Church will undertake a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel.”
The world’s bishops were sent a questionnaire late last year and asked to canvas their people’s understanding and acceptance of Catholic teaching on family and married life. Some 80 per cent of the national episcopal conferences have sent back their findings, according Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the Synod’s general secretary. In an interview with the 21 February edition of L’Osservatore Romano, he said his office had also received another 700 responses from groups and individuals.
“We see a lot of suffering in the responses, especially among those who feel excluded or abandoned by the Church because they are in a state of life that does not correspondent with its doctrine or discipline,” the cardinal said. On the other hand, he noted that the questionnaire had “opened a path of trust for many who had lost” trust, especially because Pope Francis has shown a “new human and Christian approach” towards listening to people.