The synod on the family made news this week in the media around the world. As is the custom after a series of discussions in open session, the Synod moves into small group discussion. To help in the small group discussions and to give everyone a sense of the open debate a Post-discussion document is released. This document is not a decision but a working paper for the small group discussions to follow. But the document hit the headlines because of its sensitive, positive and hopeful spirit.

This working paper is in three parts it summarises the listening, looking, talking that went on in the first week.

Listening:          The working paper gave a summary of what had been said in terms of the context and challenges to the family today.

Looking:            This section was concerned with looking on Christ and seeing marriage and family life in terms of the Gospel. This section included much in the way of the beauty and holiness of family and mercy.

Talking:              The final section gave a perspective on the debates which have already taken place in the synod. It was the tone of this section which drew the most positive attention.

It spoke with great compassion of those in difficult situations. It addressed the widespread practice of living together before or instead of marriage; it wrestled with the situation of those who are divorced and remarried and opened various possibilities of a positive pastoral response. In terms of the media, most attention was given to the positive remarks on homosexuality. The document spoke of homosexual having gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community and asked are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities. It pointed out how same-sex relationships can even “to the point of sacrifice constitute a precious support in the life of the partners.

Everything about the document and the Synod breathes hope and pastoral sensitivity.

As Archbishop Brislin said on Vatican Radio on Tuesday We have to get away from judging and condemning and to say how we can give support.

Good news indeed.

Fr Sean Wales, C.Ss.R.

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