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Pope’s General Audience Address of Dec. 10: On the Family

“We must know that the Synod is not a Parliament”

Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ address during the weekly general audience held this morning in St. Peter’s Square:

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning.

We concluded a series of catecheses on the Church. We thank the Lord who enabled us to make this journey, rediscovering the beauty and the responsibility of belonging to the Church, of all of us being Church.

Now we begin a new stage, a new series, and the subject will be the family, a subject that is inserted in this intermediary time between two Assemblies of the Synod dedicated to this very important reality. Therefore, before entering into the discussion of several aspects of family life, I wish to begin today, in fact, with the Synodal Assembly of the past month of October, which had this theme: “The Pastoral Challenges on the Family in the Context of the New Evangelization.” It is important to recall how it unfolded and what it produced, how it went and what it produced.

During the Synod, the media did its work – there was much expectation, much attention – and we thank them because their reporting was abundant. So much news, so much! This was possible thanks to the Press Office, which gave a briefing every day. However, the view of the media was often somewhat in the style of sports or political chronicles: often there was talk of two teams, for and against, conservatives and progressives. Today I want to tell you what the Synod was.

First of all, I asked the Synod Fathers to speak frankly and courageously and to listen with humility, to say courageously everything they had in their hearts. There was no previous censure in the Synod, but each one could – more than that, should – say what he had in his heart, what he sincerely thought. “But this will arouse argument.” It’s true; we heard how the Apostles argued. The text says: a strong argument broke out. The Apostles told one another off, because they were seeking the will of God in regard to pagans, if they could enter the Church or not. It was something new. When the will of God is sought in a Synod Assembly, there are always different points of view and there is argument and this is not a bad thing! – so long as it is done with humility and with a spirit of service to the assembly of brothers. A prior censure would have been something bad. No, no, each one should say what he thought. After the initial Report of Cardinal Erdo, there was a first, essential moment in which all the Fathers were able to speak, and all listened. And that attitude of listening that the Fathers had was edifying. It was a moment of great liberty, in which each one expressed his thought with frankness and confidence. The basis of the intervention was the Instrumentum Laboris,  fruit of the preceding consultation of the whole Church. And here we must thank the Synod’s Secretariat for the great work both before and during the Assembly. [It] was truly very good.

No intervention questioned the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of Matrimony, namely: indissolubility, unity, fidelity and openness to life (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council Gaudium et spes, 48; Code of Canon Law, 1055-1056). This was not touched.

All the interventions were collected and so the second moment was reached, namely, a sketch that is called Report after the discussion. This Report was also made by Cardinal Erdo, articulated in three points: listening to the context and the challenges of the family; the gaze fixed on Christ and the Gospel of the family; discussion on pastoral prospects.

The discussion in groups took place on this first proposal of synthesis, which was the third moment. As always, the groups were divided by language, because it is better that way, there is better communication: Italian, English, Spanish and French. At the end of its work, each group presented a report, and all the group reports were published immediately. Everything was given, for the sake of transparency, so that what was happening could be known.

At that point – it was the fourth moment – a Commission examined all the suggestions that emerged from the linguistic groups and the Final Report was made, which kept the preceding scheme — listening to the reality, looking at the Gospel, the pastoral commitment – but it sought to receive the fruit of the group discussions. Also approved, as always, was a final message of the synod, which is briefer and more divulged than the report.

This was the unfolding of the Synod Assembly. Some of you might ask me: “Did the Fathers quarrel?” Well, I don’t know if they quarreled, but they spoke strongly, yes, truly. And this is liberty; it is in fact the liberty that exists in the Church. Everything happened “cum Petro et sub Petro,” namely, the presence of the Pope, which is the guarantee for all of liberty and trust, and guarantee of orthodoxy. And, with my intervention at the end, I gave a synthetic reading of the Synod experience.

Therefore, the official documents that issued from the Synod are three: the Final Message, the Final Report and the Pope’s final address. There are no others.

The Final Report, which was the point of arrival of all the reflection of the dioceses up to that moment, was published yesterday and is being sent to the Episcopal Conferences, which will discuss it in view of the next Assembly, the Ordinary, in October of 2015. I said it was published yesterday — it had already been published — but yesterday it was published with the questions addressed to the Episcopal Conferences and thus it becomes, in fact, the Guidelines of the next Synod.

We must know that the Synod is not a Parliament, a representative comes of this Church, of that Church, of the other Church … No, it is not this. A representative does come, but the structure is not parliamentary, it is totally different. The Synod is a protected space so that the Holy Spirit can operate; there was no clash between factions, as in a Parliament where this is licit, but a discussion between Bishops, which took place after a long work of preparation and which now will continue with other work, for the good of families, of the Church and of society. It is a process; it is the normal synodal way. Now this Relatio goes to the particular Churches and thus, continued in them, is the work of prayer, reflection and fraternal discussion in preparation for the next Assembly. This is the Synod of Bishops. We entrust it to the protection of the Virgin our Mother. May she help us to follow the will of God, making pastoral decisions that help the family more and better. I ask you to support this Synodal journey up to the next Synod with prayer. May the Lord illumine us, make us go toward the maturity of that which, as Synod, we must say to all the Churches. And for this, your prayer is important. With the Synod journey having begun, your prayer for the good of the family. May God bless you!

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

Summary of the Catechesis and Greeting in English

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

This morning we begin a new series of catecheses devoted to the family. As you know, the pastoral challenges involving the family were discussed in a recent meeting of the Synod of Bishops in preparation for the next Ordinary Assembly of the Synod in October, 2015. The meeting began with a very frank discussion of those serious challenges, in the light of the fundamental truths about the sacrament of Matrimony – its indissolubility, unity, fidelity, and openness to life. The fruits of this period of discussion and discernment were collected in a preliminary report, which was then discussed in smaller groups. The observations and suggestions which emerged were incorporated in a Final Report, which served as the basis for the Final Message of the Synod Fathers. The Final Report is being sent to the Bishops throughout the world, and the results of this consultation will be brought to the Synod meeting next October. I ask all of you to pray, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, that the Synod process will result in pastoral decisions truly beneficial to the family, the Church and society.

Holy Father:

Speaker:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including the groups from Denmark, Nigeria, Australia and the United States of America. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke joy and peace in the Lord Jesus. God bless you all!

[Original text: English]

Greeting in Italian

I give my cordial greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet the students, the parish groups and Associations, in particular the Gran Sasso Acqua, five years after the earthquake of L’Aquila. May the liturgical season of Advent foster in all a renewed adherence to the Gospel, a sincere solidarity towards brothers and a rediscovery of Christian hope.

A special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Today we celebrate the Memoria of the Blessed Virgin of Loreto. Dear young people, imitate Jesus’ Mother to prepare yourselves joyfully for Christmas; may her heavenly protection support you, dear sick, in carrying your daily cross; and may her abandonment to the will of the Father remind you, dear newlyweds, of the fruitful presence of Providence in your family.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

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