While acknowledging the Church needs to pastorally accompany struggling families, the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, says if people believe this means doing away with or changing Church doctrine in the Synod, they are mistaken.
This afternoon at the Vatican press office, with its director, Father Federico Lombardi, Italian Archbishop Bruno Forte, Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő, and the French Cardinal gave their initial thoughts on the first day of the Synod of Bishops. The Oct. 4-25, meeting is being held on the topic “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world.” Pope Francis began the meeting this morning, giving an address, in which he called for the prelates to walk together in collegiality and synodality and to be led by the Holy Spirit.
During the course of the conference, the speakers agreed that Church leaders must listen to their people, and discern the best ways of supporting the family and the life of the family. However, they reaffirmed that this does not mean doctrinal changes are on their way.
Cardinal Vingt-Trois, speaking in French, highlighted that the Holy Father’s homilies on Saturday’s Vigil and Sunday’s Mass served as a great introduction into the Synod. The Cardinal’s first impression of this first day of the Synod, he said, is how there “is a great diversity among the participants that manifests the unity around Pope Francis.”
“Pope Francis,” the Cardinal recalled, “says we must be open to the Word of God, to each other and to the reality of the family. Our society is experiencing a profound transformation and the mission of the Church is to accompany these changes.”
However, Cardinal Vingt-Trois reaffirmed: “If you think you will find a radical change in Church doctrine, you’ll be disappointed.” Yet, the French prelate did note how helpful the Synod has been in promoting dialogue surrounding these themes within families and parishes.
Archbishop Forte also spoke about the Synod’s hope to have the Church better accompany its people.
The Synod, he pointed out, has two goals: to propose the Gospel of the family and the pastoral accompaniment of families in their realities. “The times change, situations change, and the Church cannot remain insensitive to these changes,” he said.
When speaking about the family, he reminded those gathered, of its role as being where one learns community life. He also mentioned that in his Relatio, he tried to follow the Instrumentum Laboris and address challenges against institutions, and asserted that it was a coincidence that yesterday’s Gospel reading at the opening of the Synod was on the indissolubility of marriage
When questions were raised about the African bishops, Cardinal Erdo noted that the voice of the African bishops was “rather strong” and indicated the specific needs of their continent, which is helpful to others. The Holy Father will make his first Apostolic visit to Africa, Nov. 25-30, where he will visit the three African capitals of Kenya, Central African Republic, and Uganda.
Tomorrow afternoon, the Vatican Press Office will have a briefing on the report of the general debate of the first part of the Instrumentum Laboris, or working document.