Synod of bishops fine-tuning final document on family life

Pope Francis poses for a photo with African Church leaders outside the Synod Hall on Friday – ANSA

23/10/2015 16:20 (Vatican Radio) With just two days to go until the end of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, participants on Friday gave their reactions to a draft of the final document which is now being fine-tuned and will be voted on by the bishops on Saturday.

At a press conference following the morning session, Fr Federico Lombardi was joined by Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana, Canadian Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix of Quebec and Belgian Archbishop Lucas Van Looy of Ghent to talk about their hopes for the outcome of the three-week meeting.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report:

Long days and sleepless nights – that’s how Cardinal Turkson characterised the work of the drafting committee, currently trying to integrate over 1,350 proposals for changes to the original working document put forward by the Synod’s small groups. On top of that, there were over 50 further comments made in the Synod Hall on Friday on subjects ranging from biblical quotations, to pastoral formation to the crucial question of the relationship between the Church’s moral law and the individual’s right to follow his or her own conscience.

Is it possible to integrate so many differing perspectives without watering down the contents of the final document, journalists wanted to know? Will the substance of the debate on key issues really be reflected, or must it be sacrificed to the need for consensus that can be accepted by all? Cardinal Lacroix noted the final Synod document is not a legislative text so it doesn’t have to reflect unanimity among the Church leaders – on the contrary, he said, differences of opinion reflect a healthy engagement with the difficult issues under discussion.

Among them are the ever-present questions of how to help divorced and remarried couples be reintegrated into the life of the Church and how to approach the issue of homosexuality, which some Synod fathers suggest has not been adequately dealt with at this meeting. Not so, said Cardinal Turkson, revealing that in his small group some bishops and cardinals themselves had shared experiences of gay members of their families. The cardinal also reiterated the view of another Ghanaian participant who told journalists that attitudes in Africa on this issue are changing, faster than they are in other parts of the world.

All three participants pointed to the important experience of synodality, as outlined in the Pope’s own words, allowing bishops in the different parts of the globe greater freedom to exercise leadership, while allowing the Pope to draw on the wealth of local expertise and experience.

Archbishop Van Looy said another key word of this Synod is tenderness, heralding a new attitude of the Church to stop judging and start journeying with people in whatever situation they may find themselves. While it’s vital to support families who do live up to Church teaching, Cardinal Lacroix said there is no such thing as the perfect family and the Church must remain close to all those looking for God’s grace in times of struggle and need.

Source: Vatican Radio

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