The synod, according to senior officials involved, is a time to listen to others with respect, in order to develop a universal approach for addressing the reality of the family in today’s Church.
This afternoon at the Vatican press office, with its director, Father Federico Lombardi, Italian Archbishop Bruno Forte, Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő, French Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, and Mexican Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, gave initial thoughts on the first day of the Synod of Bishops
The Oct. 5-19 meeting is being held on the topic “The Pastoral Challenges on the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” Pope Francis began the meeting this morning.
During the course of the conference, the speakers agreed that Church leaders must truly listen to their people, be genuine, seek consensus, and discern new ways of supporting the family and the life of the family.
A change in methodology in this synod was a focus of the remarks of Hungarian Cardinal Erdö. Specifically, the cardinal, who had given the introductory presentation to the Synod’s opening session, underscored the meeting has undergone changes to better reflect that the Church is, indeed, listening to the needs of the faithful.
For example, he said, “The Holy Father asked us to have the official language of this year’s synod be Italian.” Therefore, departing from the tradition of giving his presentation in Latin, the Hungarian cardinal explained he instead gave it to the some 250 synod participants in Italian, which he joked is “more easily translated.”
He also highlighted the differences in synod preparations. He said the questionnaire on the family sent out to dioceses last year worldwide, and its much greater response compared to that of prior years, made it possible to incorporate into his presentation ideas that had already circulated among bishops, based on the questionnaire’s outcomes.
Special secretary for the synod, Archbishop Forte, stressed the importance of open dialogue and mutual respect.
“It is important to put ourselves in front of each other with respect and to listen to each other,” he said.
Recalling how Pope Paul VI’s efforts following the Second Vatican Council called for involving the voices of all the baptized in discussions, he admitted that bishops are still learning how to do this.
To this end, he implored all the synod participants to follow Pope Francis’ call to speak freely and honestly, without any bias or preconceived ideas.
“It is easy to speak of the divorced and remarried in the abstract,” he said for example, “but it is entirely different to walk with them.”
Not like Parliament
One of the three synod presidents, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, reminded journalists the meeting is not like a “parliamentary debate,” in which a majority is aiming to overrule the minority’s opinions.
Rather, he said, it is a gathering of Church leaders who seek consensus on critical issues that not only facilitate the growth of the Catholic Church, but also provide support to people in their personal circumstances.
Since “the Pope cannot be pastor of every parish,” he stressed, “we need a concrete universal orientation on how to apply those worlds universally.”
The French cardinal also pointed out that the debate among cardinals prior to the synod over divorced and remarried Catholics should be seen as what is was: an important part of the theological discussion process, not as a conflict.
Real life issues
Lastly, the need for a constant pastoral discernment was underscored by the president of the bishops conferences of Latin American and the Caribbean, Archbishop Aguiar Retes. He suggested this must be based on the reality of families throughout the world, rather than ideals.
In addition, he recalled that this synod is part of a two-year process. Overnight solutions, he said, are not what Church leaders ought to be seeking. Rather, they should be seeking to find practical answers to the most urgent needs of families around the world today.
Concluding with a question-and-answer session, when asked if Pope Emeritus Benedict is likely to participate, Fr. Lombardi and the speakers said it is not foreseen that the retired Pope will do so, noting the long working days of the meetings are not conducive to fitting with the retired Pope’s more reserved lifestyle, focused on prayer.
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Pope Opens First Session of Synod on the Family:
Full Text of Cardinal Baldisseri’s Opening Report for the Synod:
Full Text of Pope’s Opening Words: