Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, has reminded the world that the Synod of Bishops on the family, wrapping up its first stage this weekend at the Vatican, is not about bishops learning what the Holy Father wants to do or change, but rather the Holy Father wanting to learn from his brother bishops how to best address the families of the world.
A second stage of the synod on the family will occur next October.
At a briefing at the Holy See Press Office this afternoon held by Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi; Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and president of the Commission for the Message; Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India; and delegate president, Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, archbishop of Aparecida, Brazil, delegate president, spoke on this closing day of the Synod of Bishops, particularly the message the assembly released today and the soon to be available final report.
During his opening remarks, Fr. Lombardi noted the report will be finalized today, and the synod’s first phase will be drawn to a close through the Eucharist celebration tomorrow led by Pope Francis, which will include the Beatification of Pope Paul VI. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will be present.
The Relatio Synodi, summarizing the work of the synod, will be voted on later today.
“The Relatio is open and wants to embrace everybody,” said Cardinal Gracias of Bombay, noting “It’s balanced, and admits we don’t have all of the answers to everything.”
The head of the Asian bishops pointed out, however, that it is not the bishops who wish to discern the Holy Father’s view on, for example, administering the sacraments to the divorced and remarried, rather the reverse.
Clarifying that it is rather the Holy Father who seeks to hear his bishops’ view, he warned against thinking it’s the opposite way around.
“We need to help the Holy Father to make a decision regarding divorced and remarried couples,” he urged, saying, “So we need to pray about this.”
While the Church “must first accept and understand the changes of society,” he continued, “it must also have its own identity.”
Turning to tonight’s vote, Cardinal Ravasi said, “In my opinion, the vote of the Relatio this evening will be positive because it is the fruit of the long work of the [small] groups,” a view shared by the other cardinals present.
“I think other people and other religions are looking to the Catholic Church for a comment on the situation of the family,” added Cardinal Gracias.
From the Asian perspective, he said, “this synod has been very useful to us. The family is a central thing in our whole existence.”
“I think the objective has been achieved,” he concluded, as “we have been able to speak and form an agenda for the next Synod.”
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