2015-10-09 (Vatican Radio) At the Synod of Bishops on the Family on Friday morning, participants presented the results of their small language group work that has been going on behind closed doors for the past couple of days. Each group has been discussing the first section of the Synod’s working document, or Instrumentum Laboris, focused on the challenges facing family life today.
Philippa Hitchen was listening in and talking to some of the bishops involved….
Listen: Who exactly are those rows of men with their red and purple hats, sitting in the Synod Hall for three whole weeks? Firstly, they’re family men, in the sense that they grew up with mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, in-laws, cousins, nephews and nieces, so they know only too well the difficulties and dysfunctionalities that family life can bring to us all.
Secondly, they’re men of God, so whatever other professional training and experience they bring, they’re men whose lives have touched by Christ and must let their words be inspired by His love.
Thirdly, they’re pastors of their people, whose task is to help families discover and live out their missionary faith, in the day-to-day realities that vary enormously from one place, one country, one continent to the next.
That was the self-portrait of one of the Synod fathers who presented the results of his small group work on Friday. Altogether there were 13 groups, working in five different languages, and they all spoke in positive terms of the small group atmosphere with lay men and women, plus non-Catholic participants too. They also talked of the challenge of bringing together such diverging views from right across the globe. Many were critical of a “too Western perspective” that they perceived in the Synod’s working document and several suggested that much greater autonomy must go to local bishops conferences to find creative solutions to family problems in their particular parts of the world.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia presented the results of one of the English language groups:
“We came to feel that there are issues that need to be addressed, analysis that needs to be done and decisions that need to be taken at the local or regional level.”
Another common theme was to recognize and encourage the positive in peoples’ lives, rather than to talk constantly about crisis and despair, even if families can no longer be neatly packaged into a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model that the Church has held up in the past. Archbishop Coleridge again:
“What’s really in crisis is our understanding of what marriage is and what the family is…It’s easy to look back to a golden age when there was mum- dad and three of four kids……that’s not the reality today…..”
Finally there was a lot of talk about language, words lost in translation and why it’s important to do away with the kind of ‘Church-speak’ that means nothing at all to young people today. Instead many bishops cited Pope Francis’ own down-to-earth, colourful choice of words that has made people from all countries and all cultures sit up discover a new, fresh face to the unchanging truths of the Church.