Holy Father: present
Synod Fathers: 168
The tenth general Congregation involved hearing seven fraternal Delegates of various Christian confessions. The intervention of the eighth Delegate, Metropolitan Hilarion, president of the Department for External Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, will be given in the coming days.
In their interventions, the fraternal Delegates expressed to the Holy Father and the Synod Fathers their gratitude for the invitation to participate in the Assembly. Each one then went on to present the question of the family in the context of his own Christian confession.
Overall, it was underlined that the challenges and hopes attached to the family unit are common to all Christians: the family, it was said, is fundamental for society, it is the foundation of communion in justice. Certainly, there is no lack of difficulties: the economic crisis is pressing, the mass media reduce moments of dialogue between domestic walls, at times even proposing models that lead to adultery, and factors such as wars, migrations, globalisation, the drama of diseases such as Aids and Ebola, and the Islamic fundamentalism present in some countries continually place the good of the family at risk in every context.
Common to all Christians is the need for adequate preparation for marriage and appropriate reflection on marriage between believers and non-believers. With regard to divorced and remarried persons, it was said that their acceptance in the Church may give new hope, promoting a more serene family life and thus creating a richer society. Therefore, on the part of all Christian confessions, it is essential to listen to those who find themselves in difficult family situations, who are in need of mercy and compassion every day, as the Church wishes always to help those who suffer, looking both at the Sacred Scriptures and at the problems of contemporary life.
The wish was expressed for listening and comprehension, far from any form of condemnation, in relation to homosexual persons, while emphasising that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Particular attention was shown towards children born in difficult context and for all victims of violence, especially women and minors, as the defence of the most vulnerable, of those who have no voice of their own – believers or otherwise – is common to all Christians.
Another central theme in the interventions by the fraternal Delegates was that of the proclamation of the Gospel. The family, it was said, is the first school of faith: it is the place where knowledge of the Good News is transmitted and disseminated, and it is therefore essential that Christians share the “joy of the Gospel”, that “evangelii gaudium” frequently mentioned by Pope Francis.
Some differences in approach were encountered, for example on the theme of birth control, underlining the freedom of conscience of believers, while always respecting the meaning of love and marriage. Furthermore, in relation to second marriages, it was said by the Orthodox delegates that these in any case constitute a deviation and while they are celebrated, it is after a period of accompaniment on the part of the Church in an attempt to bring married couples towards reconciliation.
In particular, the fraternal Delegates of the Churches present in the Middle East thanked Pope Francis for the prayer vigil for peace in Syria and throughout the world, held on 7 September 2013; in this context, the responsibility of evangelisation by Middle Eastern Christian families within a largely Islamic context was emphasised.
Finally, the delegates concluded their interventions by expressing the hope that the extraordinary Synod on the family will prove successful, especially in view of the ordinary Assembly scheduled for 2015.[03034-02.01] [Original text: Italian – working translation]