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Briefing on the Synod of Bishops on the Family

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Prelates Note Satisfaction With Synod’s Work So Far

Say Instrumentum Laboris a ‘Martyr Document’ Meant to Be Changed

Though reports from the 13 working groups read today at the synod of bishops showed generalized dissatisfaction with the Instrumentum Laboris, Cardinal Antonio Tagle of Manila says that is to be expected, as the working document is meant to be a “martyr document,” revised and corrected during the process of the synod.

That was one of several points made at today’s briefing in the Vatican press office, to which spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi invited — in addition to Cardinal Tagle — Archbishops Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, and Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid, Spain.

Fr. Lombardi noted the Pope’s appeal for prayer and peacemaking in the Middle East and Africa, which he made prior to morning prayer.

Following prayer, the spokesmen of the 13 working groups — four of which are English-language groups — gave their reports from the discussions over the last two days on the first section of Instrumentum Laboris. 

Once the reports were completed the Fathers began to look at part two of the working document.

Archbishop Kurtz said that he found it very helpful to work in small groups early in the Synod, as this is enabling delegates to engage early. The archbishop said many Fathers were concerned that the final document should reflect the concerns of the whole church and not be too “western.” The US prelate said that migration had emerged as a strong theme and that the Fathers saw the need to call on governments to be welcoming and generous to migrants.

All three of the prelates affirmed the Church’s teaching on the right to life and said that it was important that families who are struggling with unexpected pregnancies be accompanied pastorally.

Cardinal Tagle said that this was a Synod in which the church was affirming its love and pastoral concern for families. He said that for some there was great expectation that there would be doctrinal pronouncements but that this is not what the Synod is about. Rather, it is about the support the Church renders to the family. “We are affirming teaching, not changing it; we are looking for liberating ways to give new life to families,” Cardinal Tagle said. An important question, the cardinal said, was “How do we help people live the doctrine?”

Questioned about the new synodal  process the Fathers are using, the prelates agreed that it was working, even if it was taking some adjustment. Cardinal Tagle humorously said that even if there was a little confusion it was “good to be confused from time to time!” He said that the new process was more effective because the bishops dealt with smaller pieces of the text. “We don’t have to discuss the whole document after listening to 300 interventions first,” he said. 

The discussions, Archbishop Kurtz agreed, were now easier because the focus was on smaller parts of the document.

The prelates told the media that, without turning a blind eye to the challenges, the Fathers wanted to celebrate the family and the many families who are living faithfully in difficult conditions.

Given the presence of Cardinal Tagle and Archbishop Kurtz, much of the press briefing was held in English. It can be viewed at the Vatican YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSJDciX-jwk

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