Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro Reflects on Synod

Cardinal Orani Joao Tempesta Gives Insights Into Concerns in Brazil

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On Sunday, Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Mass at 10 a.m. Rome time to open the 3rd Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of bishops, dedicated this time to the theme of the family.

Two hundred fifty-three persons will take part in the Synod, 14 of whom are married couples invited by the Pope.

Representing Brazil will be Cardinals Dom Odilo Pedro Scherer, SP; Dom Orani Joao Tempesta, RJ and Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno, president of the Episcopal Conference of Brazil, in addition to the married couple Hermelinda and Arturo Zamperlini who since September 1 are responsible for the Brazil Super-Region of the Movement of Teams of Our Lady.

ZENIT interviewed Cardinal Orani Joao Tempesta, archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, for his perspective on what to expect

ZENIT: Dom Dimas Lara, Archbishop of Campo Grande, MS, and former secretary general of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), said in the CELAM meeting, in preparation for the Synod of Bishops, that “a change in the methodology of the Synod” is important to be able to reflect “a mutual and collegial participation and listening of the Bishops with the magisterium of the Holy Father.” And he added that “it will not be a collection of suggestions” and that “the floor will be open so that many other ideas and focuses are addressed.” Can you give us a concrete example of how that change of methodology affects the present Synod?

Cardinal Tempesta: The methodology is clear. Pope Francis made public a document with questions on the topic for the whole world, which demonstrated its importance due to the quantity of answers. Then he held a Consistory on the Family. This was one more step. And the third is what is happening now: the Extraordinary Assembly. The Synod itself will be held in 2015. Those steps were to identify ways for the family and today’s problems. The steps of the Synod show a methodology that seeks to reflect further on the topic little by little.

ZENIT: Sadly, today, the family is terribly threatened, especially by the gender ideology. Is there a clear awareness of the danger of that ideology in the heart of the Church?

Cardinal Tempesta: I think that the scholars have perceived, reflected and responded to the question of gender ideology; however, in general the people are not aware of the danger; they do not see this clearly in the day to day. It is important to study the gender ideology to come to that problem, clarifying the question in groups, in pastoral programs so that each parish can see, from the local work to global awareness, the danger of the gender ideology.

ZENIT: Today there are many proposals and new models of the family. Therefore, is it also possible to say that there is great knowledge of the “gospel of the family,” an expression used in the preparatory document for the Synod? In this connection, the preparatory document also states that priests are not prepared to transmit the gospel of the family today. In what way should priests in Brazil have more preparation on the doctrine of the family?

Cardinal Tempesta: Priests have a good preparation in their studies in Philosophy, Theology and even in specializing themselves; however, updating is always necessary, since the world is changing rapidly, new questions arise with certain speed. The preparatory document of the Synod reminds parents of the need for that updating and preparation to reflect further on the questions of the family and of matrimony, in order to attend to them and to act on them in homilies and addresses. We need to understand how to take what we know as Church by revelation and how to express this in today’s changing world. We will never cease to reflect further and to update subjects related to the world and to man.

ZENIT: In general, the great majority of Catholics do not take part in ecclesial groups or movements where, in principle, the members receive better doctrinal and spiritual formation …  The Synod’s preparatory document stresses the importance of a “more constant and detailed formation: biblical, theological, spiritual, but also human and existential.” What could Brazil offer the universal Church in this sense?

Cardinal Tempesta: Constant and detailed formation, be it biblical, theological, spiritual, human or existential is essential for Catholics. We know that the majority in general do not go to Mass. Few take part in groups of reflection. And even fewer go to conferences or courses of theology. However, we have several experiences of formation. Here in Rio, we have Mater Ecclesiae, a course of the Archdiocese by correspondence and presence, which is very old and has the commitment to spread theological knowledge. We also have here a center of higher education of religious studies to deepen knowledge of the faith. And there are also in other cities and dioceses courses and schools that can help Catholics. We need to discover other ways to disseminate knowledge. Beyond knowledge, we also know that it is necessary to witness with one’s own life.

ZENIT: And in regard to the course for engaged couples? The Synod’s preparatory document points out that these are deficient. There is talk of transforming the “courses” into .” Do you know of some course that is really satisfactory in Brazil? Can you comment on that point?

Cardinal Tempesta: The course for engaged couples offers a great service to the Church because it is formation close to the celebration of the marriage. However, over time, we have felt another need. The course for engaged couples arose at a time when people had a different family atmosphere, but with the changes there can no longer be a course of a few days in preparation for marriage. Presupposed now is an itinerary, a Christian course. This already happens with preparation for First Communion and Confirmation. This must also happen with marriage – an itinerary to understand the faith in their conjugal life. The course of engaged couples should be a preparation close to the celebration, but an itinerary must guide marital life.

ZENIT: What are the pastoral lines that Brazil is going to propose in the Synod, in relation to the problems of matrimony today: de facto unions, divorced persons who have remarried, the situation of the children, of single mothers, of access to the Sacraments, etc.?  Should the Church make a radical change in her pastoral care?

Cardinal Tempesta: Brazil will be represented in the Synod by Dom Raymundo, Dom Odilo, myself and a married couple. Problems such as de facto unions, the remarried, children of single mothers, all those issues will be present in the Synod. Brazil will take its concerns and, at the same time, through listening, will reflect on the questions of the family to adapt its pastoral work. Seeing the changes of times, of ideas, we must see how we can respond pastorally to the new challenges, to the new needs. We must always update ourselves pastorally.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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Thácio Siqueira

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