10 October 2015, The Tablet

Synod: Supporting families theme of first week, says Nichols

Finding practical ways to support families and discovering a new language for the Church to talk about marriage have emerged as themes at the end of the first week of the synod, Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said. 

The Synod on the Family has broken into small language groups and have reflected on the first section of the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document of the gathering, which focuses on the family in a sociological and anthropological context. The final section of the document - which will be examined in the final week of the synod - will examine the issue of divorced and remarried couples and those struggling to live according to Catholic teaching. 

Cardinal Nichols, who is moderating one of the English language groups, said there was “ certainly a univocal desire for a freshness of language,” when it came to the Church talking about marriage and family. 

The cardinal pointed to the contribution of one bishop who talked of “the use of the word ‘indissolubility’ of marriage when in fact what they [couples] strive for is ‘to be faithful’.“


Speaking to The Tablet he added that the language of the synod’s working document also needs to be re-worked as the “way it is written at the moment will appeal to nobody.” Criticism of the Instrumentum Laboris was one of the themes of the first reports from the small groups. 

The reports from the small group discussions will feed into the final synod report, to be drafted by a committee. 

Cardinal Nichols said that it was important to accentuate what families already achieve and to find practical ways to support it. 

“The holiness of family life it isn’t an ideal out there, its something that’s lived day by day, week by week,” he said adding that bishops and clergy needed to recognise their failings in assisting families.

“While we appreciate very much what people achieve in their family life in great difficulties, we have a sense of not playing our part,” he said.

This theme was also mentioned in the Spanish group led by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez, one of the Pope’s closest advisers. 

“We’ve failed in ‘Christian formation’ and in the education in the faith, so [people] arrive to marriage with many loopholes,” the group wrote.

Cardinal Nichols also hoped that they synod will suggest ways to help with developing a family’s prayer life as a way of solidifying the family unit.

He added that the synod process had been “much more humanly satisfying” than other synods he had been through.

It is unclear whether Pope Francis will deliver an Apostolic Exhortation following the synod (this would be in addition to synod's the final report). Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle pointing out at a press briefing yesterday that Pope Paul VI did not issue an exhortation following the 1967 synod. 

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