THE Extraordinary Synod on the Family finished last Sunday with the beatification of Pope Paul VI. There are two very interesting documents a MESSAGE which the synod issued and a REPORT OF THE SYNOD.
The message is fairly short (two pages): it is message of admiration and gratitude to all Christian families for how they try to live their vocation as families. The Message acknowledges many of the difficulties which contemporary families face: enfeebled faith, individualism, stress. Sometimes the difficulties come from within the family itself: sickness, old age, children with special needs, death within the family; often the difficulties come from outside the family: the idolatry of money in our society, the dictatorship of an impersonal economy, poverty, the situation of refugees and migrants etc.
The heart of the message is that CHRIST WANTED HIS CHURCH TO BE A HOUSE WITH DOORS ALWAYS OPEN TO WELCOME EVERYONE.
This statement connects with the radical openness of the mid-Synod report which spelt out in some detail what such an openness might mean. The Message acknowledges that we have reflected on how to accompany those who have been divorced and remarried and on their participation in the sacraments.
The final REPORT OF THE SYNOD attracted much media attention because some of the applications of the principle of openness seemed to be down-played. In fact they are all published in the long report (we are still awaiting an official translation) but not all these ideas on openness received a two-thirds majority, even though they were passed by the Synod.
We will certainly be hearing a lot more between now and the next Synod, this time next year, about pastoral approaches to many family problems. In his final speech at the conclusion of the synod Pope Francis said now we have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.
Fr Sean Wales, C.Ss.R.