28 January 2015, The Tablet

Chief organiser hopes synod will listen to ‘irregular’ families

The top Vatican official for October’s Synod on the Family has tried to seize the ground for the reformers in the run-up to the meetings.

Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the secretary general of the Italian bishops’ conference, told a congress of family-focused Catholic groups gathered in Rome as part of the build-up to the Ordinary Synod that bishops “should listen to couples in irregular situations”.

Last year’s Extraordinary Synod ended in disagreement between reform-minded and conservative bishops over topics such as acceptance of gay couples and communion for the divorced and remarried.

Openings to gays that appeared in a mid-conference working document about “accepting and valuing” their choices had disappeared by the final document, which stressed that there was "no foundation" for suggesting a parallel between gay unions and marriage between a man and a woman.

The meeting came as Pope Francis told tribunal officials that annulments should be easier and free of charge. One suggested way of addressing the issue of access to communion for divorced and remarried parishioners is to make annulments easier to obtain.

Pope Francis said ecclesiastical courts should try to shorten the length of the cases, often seen by the parties as “long and arduous”.

Cardinal Baldisseri said a working document for the next Synod would be ready in June and would address “the most sensitive issues” of homosexuality, couples living together outside marriage, and Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Above: Pope Francis listens as Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, left, speaks during the morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican on 13 October. Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring

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