Mary Untier of the Knots is Going To Need to Work Overtime

Pope Francis is devoted to Mary, Untier of the Knots.  You can read about that here.  I have seen a picture of him working at his desk with this image right above him.  He certainly must be taking recourse in her in these weeks.  Today, as regards the letter signed by 13 cardinals, now the story is that Sandro Magister  got the wrong list of names when he published it in his on-line blog.  Also, Crd Pell, listed as one of the supposed signatories is doing some fancy footwork as well as Crd Napier.  This link will take you to a good run-down on it.  There are also mentions of this in my notes from today’s news conference below. The story is developing all kinds of permutations i.e. “knots”, which will be a challenge for Mary to undo.  I just find it all kind of hilarious.  I know Robert Mickens.  I spoke briefly with him today after the news conference.  His take on it is that although the letter was addressed to the pope, and seemingly complaining about Crd. Baldesseri’s planning of the Synod, which was done with PF’s approval, this is all about discrediting the pope.  It is beginning to back-fire on them.  I have been purchasing books here of stuff I know is not yet available in the US….it should be interesting packing to come home.  Marco Politi’s Pope Francis Among the Wolves has just been released so I bought it yesterday.  It is a fitting title.  I read it while eating my lunch sitting under one of the colonnades.  Interesting ambiance for this reading material to say the least!  In it, he says that Francis is, yes, very kind and very gentle.  But when he “plays”, meaning in the political arena, he plays hard and he plays for keeps.  There was a recent picture on a twitter account of PF during break at the Synod drinking a glass of something very orange and not looking like orange juice.  The speculation was on what it was.  Someone got an answer that it was carrot juice with a twist of lemon.  When I heard that I could not but help think of the Bugs Bunny cartoons and how Bugs remains quite calm, chewing on his carrot while he watches Wily Coyote being done in with his own inventions to get Bugs.  I have a feeling it would not be out of character for PF to ask “What’s up, cardinal?”  What a great gift to be here in the midst of all of this!  Tomorrow morning, I will be going into the Synod hall with other journalists to observe the gathered “Synod Fathers in morning prayer.  I am looking forward to this.


Synod 2015

Press Conference

October 13, 2015


Please note: although the words and responses of the various entities seem verbatim, they are a “summary” of what I heard them say.  Do not assume everything here is exactly as it was said.  I do my best to take accurate notes but these news conferences are very fast paced.


Fr. Lombardi, Vatican spokesperson

Abbot J Schroder, President Congregation of St Benedict of St Otilien

Moira McQueen, Head of Canadian Catholic Bishops’ Bioethical Institute

Therese Nyrabukeye, African Federation of Family Action


  • there have been two days of small group interventions.
  • We envisage questions on the letter supposedly signed by 13 cardinals sent to the Holy Father. It is something simple and straightforward.  Four have disclaimed signing the letter.  Crd Pell has stated that the letter was to be confidential.  What was published was not what was written.  He states he did not sign the letter that was published.  The difficulties that the letter outlines were brought up in the Synod hall.  These were dealt with by the Holy Father on Tuesday last.  I keep observing the opinions of the new methodology.  This is what is happening: there is a huge collaboration occurring.  The moderators and facilitators were elected by all in each small group.  There is a positive atmosphere.  Crd Napier says that an interview published (Note: John Allen was the interviewer and it was published on the Crux website..rr) has an incorrect quote of his statement (Crux has removed the statement..rr).  In it he was erroneously quoted as challenging the right of the Holy Father to make his own choices for the drafting committee on the final document.  He said no one is challenging Pope Francis’ right to make the choices.  There was a specific request from Crd Napier to state emphatically that he is not challenging the right of Pope Francis to choose.  Follow the trends of the Synod and try to follow its words without being affected by such publications as this letter.

Now each of the panelists will make some brief introductory remarks.

Therese Nyrabukeye:
My name is Therese Nyrabukeye from Uganda.   I am a lay woman working for the African Federation of Family Action present throughout Africa and at the service of the family proposing and appreciation of the family way as well as the defense of life, especially in English-speaking areas of Africa.  I collaborate with the continental episcopal conference.

Moira McQueen:

I am a Canadian of UK origins, Scotland.  I am a moral theologian working in bioethics.  There are serious bio-tech questions today.  The whole question revolving around the family regarding life is severe.  I was invited with the Canadian bishops to come to the Synod.

Abbot Schroder:

I am the German head of a Benedictine Congregation with 1000 members in 4 countries.  We have a presence in Korea, Latin America, China and Cuba.  Our contribution to the Synod is a vision of the evangelization of the family.  I am one of 10 general superiors as proposed by the Synod for a general session.


  1. One of the topics not dealt with so far is the role of the family for the growth of vocations. Has this been dealt with in the Synod and how?


It has not been touched on so much in the general sessions (interventions??..rr).  In my German-language small group and in the Indian small group.  An archbishop from India brought us his project of a league of consecrated families taking vows and working towards one of their children who would move to join the priesthood or consecrated life.

Therese Nyrabukeye:

Even in this Synod with its theme of the family, it is a foundation of the debate and how it is lived.  It has to do with preparing people to be religious people.  It is the real future so we need to work for the foundations of the Church and society, so the Church can be built on quality individuals.  The goal is to deal directly with the individual.  But in this limited, small group of the family, this can really promote vocations.


In Germany so many of the new monks are not coming from well-educated or religious families.  They are coming from their own personal spiritual life.

Moira McQueen:

The family is a training ground for vocations.  In some societies this has been lost.  In my country there is an increase in vocations.  The need and desire to promote vocations is there not only for the Church, but for society.

  1. This question is to Moira McQueen: As far as bio-ethics, did you analyze the freezing and manipulation of embryos?  What do you think?

Moira McQueen:

One of my impressions of talking about the Synod is that it is broad-based.  So I don’t imagine going into depth on particular questions.  There is broader talk in such issues.  It is fairly clear where the Church’s stance on this particular issue would be.  Many people struggle to work out some of these issues of bio-ethics.  Probably the Synod is holding many such bio-ethics issues in tension.

  1. Lombardi to Therese Nyrabukeye: You are from Rwanda that has experienced some tragic consequences.  Do you have anything to say on reconciliation and your experiences of reconciliation?

Therese Nyrabukeye:

Everybody know and has heard of the Rwanda experience.  At the moment we are gradually building up society.  We rely on the family but the families are facing many issues.  The families are a testimony to reconciliation.  They show the dignity and love for reconciliation to work and society and a new mentality to forge.  It is called “communion”.  This is a new concept.  It is mainly specific to couples.  So many interactions are needed.  It is a new transformation of society.  It takes lots of committment.  It takes fraternity and brotherhood.  It is a hard test, but people are aware.

Lombardi: Are the there mixed-faith and mixed-ethnic couples?

Therese Nyrabukeye:

Yes…there are many people from other origins.  During the genocide, there was a couple of mixed faith murdered, martyred.  After the genocide, the testimony of this couple has been spoken of as a way forward.  There is collaboration of the large ethnic groups in Rwanda that is a testimony to the love of Christ.  We shouldn’t be characterized by our ethnicity.  Some couples are setting up a Christian brotherhood on how to live after this tragedy.

  1. I would like to take an opportunity with the two ladies present to talk of the role of women in the small groups. What about this debate and do you feel included?  How do you live in the Synod?

Moira McQueen:

To be so involved is great.  As a woman it is the cherry on top.  I don’t feel treated differently or set apart.  The Synod Fathers are, of course, recognized for speaking in the small groups before the lay people.  We are encouraged to participate.  I feel our views are respected….this is not just a feeling.  The reports at the end of the day reflect what we have said.  I am happy to see women included but I don’t feel separated.

Therese Nyrabukeye:

I am happy to be taking part in the Synod as a lay woman.  The mission and life of the Church should give evidence of the active participation of women for the mission of the Church and at a high level.  My vocation is to serve in the Church and my contribution is lay.  This is the first time for me in my role as a lay person.  I will become a consecrated lay person.  I feel really happy to make my contribution.  I feel part and parcel of the Church process.  I think this is a testing of the Church to see if we can work for the entry and recognition of the role of women in the decision making process.  I believe women should have a role.  It will be a testing to the Church to reflect the development of society to date as regards women.  Women should be the debates in reflection on the family.  Women play a fundamental role in handing down the values in families.


I shouldn’t talk because I am obviously not a woman.  My personal impression of the meeting of the superior generals when we had to elect 10 representatives to the Synod is interesting.  When we were making our decisions, someone asked what about the nuns?  We wanted to give half of the roles to women.  The Secretary General of the Synod said no, that the women wanted to make up their own minds.  It was brought up to the Secretary General by the nuns, so three were selected to be present.  The feminine insight of women religious should be present in the Synod.  Pope Francis wants this accepting presence of religious women and all women.  The small groups are a civilizing influence on the Synod (IMHO, he is saying that the presence of women in these groups is the reason for the civilizing influence…..rr).  The rooms we hold the meetings in are not large.  We talk about different subjects.  We don’t follow the abstract notions of dissecting opinions.  We are analyzing the IL and you need to know it is demanding.  It is tiring work but there is a commitment of focus and we are patient.  I don’t see light at the end of the tunnel…yet….but I am not concerned.  This is the typical kind of consultation process in religious communities.  No one knows what the end will be.  No one has what the actual end is.


  1. The General Congregations are this Friday. We know that the afternoon is devoted to open discussions.  Will there be a possibility for the auditors to talk?  What procedures are there to allow a real contribution on the family by the auditors?  What do you think of the fact that the representatives of the various women religious are not many?


I think the effect of the Synod—thinking fully-fledged members—is not the case with the lay members and the women religious.  It is a shame.  It would be better to have a more active role for the women.


Moira McQueen:

The auditors will have a chance to say something.  The process is very democratic as they will have the same time allotment as the bishops: 3 minutes.  Three minutes to say what you want to say is difficult.  In the last part of the document (IL..rr) on pastoral suggestions, so many have their part to speak there.  Condensing so many passionate points into 3 minutes is difficult.  Challenges are allowed to be submitted.

Lombardi: Regarding the question on the procedures for Friday.  Following past Synods, it is totally devoted to the auditors.  In the small groups, the auditors are taking part without limitations.  Last year the texts of the speeches by the auditors was published.

  1. From DiBernardo (he is a representative of an LGBT group).  Other speakers say that the Church should be an accompanying mother.  Does mother have a role through father?  Does this mean that the Church has been too much father?

Moira McQueen:

The Church has always used the language of accompanying mother.  It shows both side of the coin.  We talk about the Synod Fathers but interesting they use the language of an accompanying mother.  Do you mean the Church has been and is too paternalistic?  That used to be true but inclusion at high levels shows the awareness and willingness of the Church to say that it has been too fatherly.

Therese Nyrabukeye:

I think also that this topic of the Synod has been examining delicate situations and it needs more guidance.  Mother accompanying means tenderness.  See the contexts of accompaniment.  The Church should accompany injured families in hard situations.  I have seen that the IL doesn’t touch upon this in a substantial way in regards to accompaniment.  It talks about normal families more than injured families.  We need to remember the path of the normal set but understand how the Church can take care of frayed families.


Before we get swallowed up by language, we need to remember we are adults and not children.  We need to talk about communion.

Moira McQueen:

They are incorporating certain suggestions elaborated by women.  Please give a specific question.  Anything suggested is not automatically included.  There have been not interventions by women yet.  Until I hear what women have to say I don’t know what has been included or not.  All interventions so far have been covering the family.

  1. About Crd Pell’s statement on the letter from the 13 cardinals: He said the letter was private.  It acknowledge the concerns about the drafting committee for the final relation  Has the Holy Father addressed this?

Lombardi:  I have spoken to this and I will not add any further comments. (and he had a definite edge in his voice and a definite look on his face saying “Don’t push me on this”….rr)

  1. A question to Therese Nyrabukeye:

You are involved in helping in the defense of life and you teach natural family planning (NFP).  What is your experience in working with African families who use NFP and what about the dignity of women?

Therese Nyrabukeye:

Yes, they use these methods since 1985.  Families in the villages knowing the bio-function of fertility is a real step forward.  Women are happy to know this step forward in knowing their fertility cycle.  It gives them pride.  I have lived this experience with them.  It empowers them to be responsible to be NFP trainers.

  1. I know there has been one intervention on the preparation to have women deacons. What more is being done?  What is your opinion?


I was impressed.  It was a daring and compelling intervention.  I could think of a certain path.  It is not a huge part of the Synod, more of a one-off, isolated voice.

Both Moira McQueen and Therese Nyrabukeye agreed.

  1. To Schroder: There is the experience of diversity in the Synod. There is diversity in unity.  Pope Francis is not afraid of this when there were proposals on regional topics.  Was this widespread and what topics for local or regional levels were discussed?


This has come up many times in the hall in interventions.  There should be a delegation of pastoral issues to the local culture.  I heard this about 20 times in the aula (Synod hall).  I heard only 3 times that the Church must remain unified.  At this stage I would say it is the general opinion of the Synod Fathers to allow more delegation to the local conferences and bishops on pastoral issue.  There are not votes in the general assembly so it is difficult to fully gauge support.  I am from Germany.  The question of the divorced and remarried is felt strongly by the general public as an area where the regional could deal with.  Homosexuality and the diversity question are another area to formulate an area formal process which can be preached and announced.

Moira McQueen:

My impressions are the same.  It hasn’t happened to vote on it.  Looking to how the universal Church has worked is interesting.  To know how this authority will be respected is an issue.  There are two sides to it that need to be seen.  There are Church structure questions.  Can the Synod deal with it??

Therese Nyrabukeye:

Personally speaking it is better and positive to have diversity.  On the other side though, there are some doctrinal aspects that need to be well kept.  Regarding pastoral implementation, there should be local work.  Guidance on this can give choices.  There are risks to create sectional phenomenon.  It is a delicate issue.  The Synod Fathers should examine it at their best and study all the consequences to the nature of the Church.



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