With preparations for the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod on the Family of Bishops underway, organizers are seeking new ways to bring the synod’s message out to the world.
Yesterday, the Vatican presented the results of a worldwide consultation, conducted as part of the lead-up to the meeting, which addressed a variety of pastoral topics, including same-sex ‘marriage’, reception of the sacraments for divorced and remarried couples, and the promotion of openness to life.
These results of the questionnaire, summarized in an Instrumentum Laboris (working document), will be the basis for the examinations and analysis to be made by the Synod Fathers during the gathering.
The document offers a “panoramic view of the issues of the world,” said Fr. Thomas Rosica, CEO of the Salt and Light Network and English-language assistant to director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi.
He told ZENIT that “certain countries have set forth an agenda of what they would like the Synod to accomplish or to discuss.” For instance, the question of reception of Sacraments by divorced or remarried is important, while other parts of the world are seeking clarification on the issue of same-sex ‘marriage’. There is also the question of polygamy: “We may not have to deal with the issues of polygamy in North America, but in Africa it’s a very serious issue,” Fr. Rosica said.
“I really appreciated in the Instrumentum Laboris the very good reflection it was of all that stuff that poured in after the questionnaire went out,” he said. “It shows that there are some questions here that we need to answer.”
With regard to the organization of this year’s Synod, which will focus on The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization, Fr. Rosica said some aspects will be a little different from previous gatherings.
“There are many things that are unique about this Synod,” he said. “First of all, this is really a preparatory Synod for the big Synod of 2015. There’s a certain amount of hype and many expectations about this Synod which I think we have to put into perspective.”
Fr. Rosica, along with Fr. Manuel Dorantes, have been asked to serve as the official language assistants during the Synod on the Family.
Because the Synod will study issues pertaining to marriage, family, and sexual morality – including those that are controversial both within and outside the Church – it has generated increased interest in certain areas of Church teaching.
“Having served at two Synods,” Fr. Rosica said, “this Synod is unique and there’s a huge amount of interest from around the world – not just from the Catholic world, but from the secular world. Some of that interest is of concern to me because people think this is going to be some revolutionary Synod to overturn everything and change things. I don’t think that’s the case at all.”
“This is a Synod that’s dealing with the reality,” he said. “It’s not dealing with the world that we like to have, but the world that we do have, and how that world could be transformed by the message of Christ and the Church.”
Fr. Rosica also noted that there will be some changes made to procedural matters. These will be spelled out by Fr. Lombardi in the coming weeks, and will be aided by Fr. Rosica and Fr. Dorantes “to make sure that we present the Synod in the best possible light – not the Synod that the media would like, but the Synod as it’s taking place with the Church. [This is] because the Synod is an act of the Church, at the service of the world.”
Fr. Rosica also noted that there will be fewer papers during the Synod on the family, recalling an anecdote from a previous Synod in which Cardinal Rouco Varela joked that the theme of the Synod ought to have been papyrorum progressio – progression of papers – rather than populorum progressio.
“There’s a certain humor to that because the volume of papers and everything else, and texts and summaries, I wondered at times what purpose that served,” he said. “I think we’re going to see a much more refined process to really get the message out.”