Christ's Gospel Must Proclaim Hope to Families

Cardinal Vingt-Trois Discusses the Upcoming Synod on the Family

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“Everyone aspires to succeed in their family life. Christ’s Gospel should proclaim a hope to families,” Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois has said on the eve of the first of two Synod of Bishops on the Family which opens Sunday, October 5, at the Vatican.

The Archbishop of Paris, who is president delegate at the forthcoming synod, has also stressed that the “debate” in the Church is “legitimate” and that there is no “single thought.”

In an interview with Paris-Notre-Dame (Ariane Rollier), he said: “The subject of the Synod touches everyone, because everyone lives a family experience. No human being came to the world on his own and no one exists without very strong bonds between members of a family, whether those bonds are happy or painful,” says Cardinal Vingt-Trois.

The Structural Elements of a Civilized Society

He specified the social dimension of the family: “The family is the most common experience among men. It is also the matrix of social life, the first framework where one learns relations and where the structural elements are put in place of a civilized society. Hence the family has a determinant role for persons’ balance and for the development of the social fabric.”

The cardinal noted the dangers that threaten the family. “In many countries across the world, the family is gravely fragile: forced emigration, social poverty, inhuman conditions of work, failures in conjugal life, etc. It’s an illusion to think that these weaknesses of the family express the aspirations of each one. All aspire to succeed in their family life. Christ’s Gospel must proclaim a hope to families.”

A Reflection by Stages

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois explained the two reasons that Pope Francis had to call a two-week “extraordinary” Synod on the subject of the family in 2014 (October 5-19) and a three-month “ordinary” Synod in 2015 (October 4-25).

The first reason is the implementation of collegiality: the Pope “said and repeated his intention to develop the practice of collegiality between the Bishops and the Pope.” The process foresees “three stages”: the Consistory of Cardinals (February 2014), and the two Synod sessions in 2014 and 2015.

The second reason is “the importance of the subject treated”: “On such an important question, it is good to benefit from stages that enable one to progress in reflection and not to limit to a few days meetings that are forcefully very weighty. We understand well that two or three weeks is not enough to receive the contributions of more than 250 participants. The succession of sessions makes possible the fructifying of the work carried out at Rome by the regular work of the Synod’s Council (six Bishops elected by the Synodal Fathers) and the Synod’s General Secretariat (permanent entity that prepares the sessions).”

No “Single Thought”

In connection with the Synod’s debates and its process, he added: “The Church has been and continues to be where the debate is legitimate. She is not a totalitarian party in which a single thought is imposed that one must accept without reflecting. She has always produced “schools” or theological theses. Some are recognized as legitimate, even in their diversity, others are judged incompatible with Christian Doctrine.

«However, all can contribute a clarification in the debates,» he continued. «The Synod is in fact a moment where interpretations of Scripture and of the Church’s tradition are compared. It must progress toward a consensus and articulate “propositions” to be presented to the Pope, who exercises his magisterium by ratifying and promulgating certain propositions so that they acquire  an authority for the whole of the Church. Generally, he does so by an Apostolic Exhortation.”

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Anita Bourdin

France. Journalist accreditated to the Holy See press office since 1995. Started Zenit in french in january 1999. Classical litterature (Paris IV-Sorbonne). Master in journalism (IJRS Bruxelles). Biblical theology (PUG, Rome).

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