No Rest for the Wicked Even on Saturday

There was a press conference this morning, even though it was a Saturday.  Fr. Lombardi, the Vatican Spokesperson, made some mention of an apology for holding one on Saturday, but only a mention!.  It was rather well-attended, although I did note some of the more “big-shot” Vaticanista were missing.

Again I will post the full report below my comments.  This one is a long read because I went back to the video of it and transcribed the full remarks of the English speakers.  What Fr. Rosica had to say was, I felt, the most important as you were getting a better “feel” for the topics of the “Interventions” being made, the 3-minute max speeches that a Synod Father is allowed to make.  He was giving actual quotes from those speeches.  The types and quality of comments were interesting.  I also took away a couple more hints that there is continuing struggle over the process and methods of the Synod.  This was coming out in some of the journalists’ questions.  My guess is that someone is encouraging these journalists to keep up the heat.  Today, it was the issue of not slavishly following the schedule as it was listed on the hand-out to journalists.  Also, the fact that Erdo was not addressing remarks before work began on a part of the Instrumentum laboris as it was listed on that same schedule.  My guess is that after Erdo’s retrograde “no change” introductory general remarks, which were supposed to only go over the Instrumentum laboris as it stood, PF is not going to give him more opportunity to beat his drum.  I also found it interesting that work on part 2 is already about completed and they are moving to part 3 about a week early.  Part 3 is the part that has the hot issues to be discussed and dissected.  No one was expecting work on it to commence until late next week at the earliest.  There are two ways of looking at that: either the pope wants to give more time to those issues as they are the meat of the Synod or someone else wants to get to that part to bog the whole thing down.  Time will tell but it sure is suddenly very interesting.


Synod 2015

Press Conference

October 10, 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.  However, today I went to the Vatican’s website for Synod 15 for reporters and went back through all of the English-speaking panelists and transcribed their exact words.  That is what you are reading fro Fr. Rosica and Crc. Thottunkal..rr



Fr. Lombardi, Vatican Spokesperson

Crd. Thottunkal, India (English speaker

Fr. Alvarez-Osorio, Sec. General of Cong. of the Holy Heart of Mary and Jesus

Fr. Dorantes, Official Spanish Translator for the Vatican

Fr Rosica, English media attache for the Vatican

Ms. Ferrauto, lay participant (not sure her official title)


Lombardi: The panelists will speak to the work of Part 2 of the Instrumentum laboris (hereafter, IL…rr) from yesterday and this morning.

Yesterday and this morning, there were 75 intervetions (3-minute speeches by Synod Fathers..rr).  They were mainly European representatives, both Eastern European and Western European, 15 from Africa and an equal number from Asia and the Middle East.  This morning there were 10 from Latin American and a few from North America.  The languages represented were Italian, English, French and Spanish.  I will give a short summary of the issues raised:

–Family is the way for the Church to find its own pathway in society and reality

–Family as school of humanity and holiness

–Spirituality of the family, prayer, word of God, Eucharist, Reconciliation as well as issues of vocation to married life as a call of God to all who marry and create family is not to be seen as second class to the priesthood.  They are equal before God.

–Mission of the family to educate to marriage and to support other families

–Spoke of the importance of lay movements and associations and the importance of pastoral care

–Development of the issue of mercy shown in tenderness, closeness to families undergoing difficulties.  Must talk in mercy and truth, mercy and justice.

–Welcoming attitude of the Church to all families even those undergoing difficulties

–Some contributions on the indissolubility of marriage from various viewpoints.  The teaching on indissolubility must be presented positively, must be considered prophetic.

–Inter-religiosity of marriage and families

–Spoke of other recurrent issues: migration, poverty.

–Families educated to evil.  There are negative families where corruption is the way of life. Families are not always positive and can experience violence and crime.

–Cases of parents in the military.  Parents are far from home due to career can cause family stress.

The dynamic of faith makes it possible for families to face difficulties.  Education of children and paying attention to children not only involves looking after them but taking a keen interest in children’s lives.

At the end of the contributions of the interventions on part 2, there were intervention started on part 3.  Twelve contributions were made this morning on part 3.  There isn’t time yet to fully tackle part 3.  That will happen beginning next week.  Part 3 has items that focus on the issues of Eucharist and the divorced and remarried.

Rosica: (As noted at the beginning, this is the full text of his remarks transcribed from video.  Below he says he is giving exact quotes, but there was no way to know when one person’s quote ended and another began.  He divided them into points which I have numbered..rr)

The mood is very pleasant and people are very attentive when one another are speaking.  I noticed yesterday and today somebody begins their presentation by thanking Pope Francis for a visit to their particular country, a particular blessed or saint, a particular situation or intervention on a particular topic.  So it’s a conversation that is taking place and not just the reading of statements.  The themes that emerged yesterday and in this morning Fr. Lombardi touched upon them: prayer, spirituality, mercy, the relationship between mercy and truth, vocation, social morality and the family.  And what I would like to do is just talk about the English presentation because they were quite extensive among the 75 and highlight some of the points that came up.  In terms of social morality and the family, I want to read to you some exact quotes from the Synod Interventions:

  1. Family is a school and cradle of honesty, integrity, mercy and justice. In some countries, economic sabotage, unfair business practices, dictatorships and organized crimes are perpetuated on the family and clients.  And this is misunderstood as a form of loyalty.  The family must be a school of communion.  It must be communion in suffering with others.  Christian families are called to look for those who suffer and who have been scattered.  Suffering is in every family.  A mother who suffers is our mother, a father who suffers is our father, a child who suffers is ours.  So there’s a deep sense of family and solidarity in suffering.
  2. Mercy cannot be encountered unless it is measured against an eternal law. These are from different interventions by the way.  One must seek truth in order to experience mercy and the Church must seek truth when confronting the theme of marriage.  Mercy means giving people a challenge.  It is not covering it with “gift wrap”.
  3. Parents are the first catechists who transmit the spirit of the family. Marriage preparation must be intense.  Marriage preparation is not only involving the married couple but those who prepare the couple as well as priests and it has to be part of the formation of priests as well as in terms of how priests deal with couples.  What are the teachable moments in the couple’s live, especially when the couple has children?  Sacrament preparation becomes those important teachable moments to transmit faith to people.
  4. Another question that came up is how can fundamental truths on marriage find a home in the heart of people today? We live with the consequences that are manifested in very strong social problems that are wide spread not just limited to one country.  Problems consist of domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse.  There is no such thing as a typical family.  Another point was stressed:  unless we acknowledge openly people’s situations, we will not be able to address those situations clearly.  Mercy towards sinners is not a form of weakness nor an abandonment of Church teaching.  We have to learn how to speak the truth in love in many situations because in many situations people are completely powerless over what has befallen them and our communities of faith have to be communities that welcome people.
  5. Another point in terms of the spirituality of family life, small workable, manageable family units in parishes are very important to sustain one another. They are called different things in different parts of the world: base communities, cell communities, evangelization groups, marriage encounter groups.  But it is in those small workable units that foster people to encounter one another and to give witness to their faith and to share their faith.  The goal of all of this is to allow people to encounter Jesus Christ.  How do families learn to pray?  One of the people that was cited all along the way were their saints and blessed that are cited in these different presentations.  And the Servant of God Fr Patrick Peyton, and American Holy Cross priests was cited—by and Asian bishop!  It is interesting, Fr. Peyton was in the United States and he was the big proponent of the Rosary.  And the quote was given: “The family that prays together, stays together”.  For many in the English-speaking world know the significance of that.  The stressing of a long preparation or catechumenate, or even “novitiate” for marriage preparation was strongly stressed.  Again it was referred to that people who are ordained or whatever have long formations and then marriage is sometimes a weekend formation program.  So how can we prepare people properly with a longer formation?  The vocation crisis that worked among priests and religious is directly related to the marriage crisis.  How can we see the two of them together, that priestly formation, formation for religious life is directly related to married families and couples?
  6. Another point: how much do we refer to scripture in the preparation of couples for marriage? There are wonderful scripture stories in both the Old and New testaments and the more we can refer to those stories and realize that in many of them there are not exactly ideal situation and they are moments of breakthrough in grace.
  7. In terms of the afternoon presentations or the free discussion, a couple of points just to highlight. A suggestion came up from one of the Synod Fathers, what might the future look like.  Might it be a two-year process or a three-year process (this is in relation to Synods themselves…rr) where the first part involves a continental type gathering of people on that particular continent to surface the questions and the issues and then when the Ordinary Synod is called that the Synod Fathers would come together.  The first part of that Synod would involve a real study and analysis of what goes on in that particular continent, to allow people to have a wider perspective on the issues.  I want to quote two passages and I will leave with that: “The question is not whether we are here to change doctrines but to make sure that pastoral care takes into account of real, actual, concrete situations of what each person is doing.  The proclamation of the Gospel and the embrace of God’s mercy are two equally valid and intrinsically related aspects of life”.  “To envision the Church’s teaching and discipline regarding marriage to the lens of mercy and charity as Pope Francis invites requires attention to the pastoral dimension and the application of the Church’s teaching, the progressive nature of conversion to Christ and the fullness of His way and the necessity of authentic Christian communities.  In these ways we experience the Church as the “field hospital” where the wounded are attended by the Great Physician”.

Ferrauto:  Issues related to part 2 of the IL were shorter.  As to the third part there will be an increase in contributions.  Part 3 deals with issues to the Eucharist.  There are diverging views.  We will see what happens.  Part 2 contributions were general remarks related to scriptures and teachings of the Church.  The “state of the art” of marriage was given.  Some suggestions to divide the universal and particular, giving powers to some episcopal conferences.  May focused on the indissolubility of marriage, many others on the role of prayer in marriage and family.  I want to stress the increasing number of contributions inviting the Church to wonder if there is blame to place on the Church with respect to training on marriage.  Is there a certain laziness of accepting the teaching or the refusal of the teaching.  Internal weakness of the Church is that it is not able to convey its message.  Clear positions and sensitive issues especially with the opening of the Church were noted.  Do we start with mercy or truth?  Judge yourself first as we are always people who accuse others.  Listen to the suffering of others.  Would Jesus be the same way?  The portrayal of the negative situations of families will be credible only if clear and only if indissolubility is presented clearly.  Remind ourselves of the words of Jesus on marriage.  Sacraments fundamental.  Must not consider indissolubility as a yoke or burden and the Church must not impose it.  Grace of God allows us to overcome our weaknesses.  Bishops from the Middle East launched an appeal to the episcopal conferences, especially the United States

Dorantes: Regarding part 2 of the IL with regard to Spanish and Portuguese speakers:

  • Word of God as the point of reference
  • Use of bible texts in the IL
  • Must not focus solely on the married: what about widows, single parents, unmarried couples
  • It is insufficient to repeat over and over on indissolubility of marriage based on a single Gospel reading.
  • Tensions and disrespect in families between parents and children and between siblings. These situations can be referred to texts in the Bible.
  • “Gospel of the Family” is a preconceived idea
  • Must not have a restructuring approach
  • Vocation and mission: clear proposal as understood by the Church. God calls to the priesthood or marriage
  • Love is faithful, loyal and gives birth and life
  • Catechesis to insist on the divine initiative and free encounter and spirituality with God.
  • Importance of children. Only with the encounter with Jesus is it possible to understand openness to life and to be united for the essential love for children
  • Serious preparation for marriage: a “novitiate” for marriage. At least 6 months preparation is needed
  • Education to the real problems of marriage, to a real “project” of life. How to overcome weaknesses and shortcomings.  We all have them.  We are all imperfect.
  • Technical aspects: the Latin American Fathers to consider a pre-continental Synod.

Hagenhord: Systematic modes and proposals.  Some small groups produce one proposal, some groups produce 60.  Suggestion to have a family liturgy to be promoted and developed.

Thottunkal: (full text of his remarks transcribed from video)

Good afternoon to you all.  I know well that you are tired.  So do I.  Do you feel hungry?  So do I am.  I thank Fr. Lombardi for this gracious gesture of inviting me to have conversation with you.  As it has been introduced, I come from India representing the National Bishops’ Conference which has 170 dioceses.  And also, since I am head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church I represent that Christian community as well.  Well, the Synod is a time for us also to listen and to share and to take home something positive to build up the family, to serve its divine purpose.  So to say it is not a time to listen to not only the problems to be faced regarding the family or the marriage.  It is also time to listen to various local churches and the (?) and the beauty and the patrimony they have.  In fact, they share much to the universal church of their patrimony.  I represented our Indian culture also last time the patrimony of the Syro-Malankara to the universal church representing them to the Synod holding the tension of the local churches to the universal church.  For example, I ask myself: How do we survive as families?  And then after reflection and getting into the life of my own parish and my own families and the people entrusted to me I realized it’s not because of a social entity but because of a spiritual strength that the family survives and the family prayer life that is held every day, as a teaching and the common word of God as a family and the number of fasts and abstinences and also the spiritual practices we have to encourage all the members of the families.  As we all say “ecclesia domestica”, the “domestic church”.  The church starts from there and then it brings vocations to various aspects of Christian life.  And also the role of parents and grandparents have been specially recognized.  Sometimes these people are considered to be useless because they have nothing to contribute in terms of money, in terms of health, in terms of any other economic, material well-being.  But these are the people sometimes who take care of the grandchildren, of their well-being, spiritual life and also continue to be the domestic church.  And I am really happy that our system of flourishing church is family-based, still producing fruits and I wish to share with our brothers and sisters of the whole universe, to the church.  And I also want one more point to be underlined: the land in which we live, India, also nourished the family bond.  Additional members are not a burden to the family, considered to be a blessing, and even on a sociological level human persons are the best of the resources.  Thank you for listening.

Orsorio:  He introduced himself only: Secretary General of the Congregation of the Holy Heart of Jesus and Mary.  Fr Damien Molokai was a member


  1. (From an Italian journalist whose name and paper I did not catch but he was not happy with the way the Synod was being changed from the schedule the journalists were given)

My question is a technical on for Fr Lombardi.  We were provided a schedule.  It lists that part 2 would be taken up this entire week.  It seems we are deviating from it but that’s OK.  Yesterday you said work was being done only on the second part.  Today you have said we have started on part 3.  Will there be a presentation by Erdo, like the schedule shows, before commencing on part 3 (and he holds up the schedule shaking it at Lombardi)?

Lombardi:  In the list of questions for contributions there are fewer questions on parts 1 and 2.  More time is needed to work with part 3 as there are more issues.  Considering that work was completed on part 2, we decided to go to part 3.  Monday the small groups will tackle the little that remains of part 2.  Then there will be general debate and then discussion begins on part 3.  Erdo’s talk was only for the Introduction of the Synod.  Before the work on the other parts, the president makes only a small contribution just regarding general information on the issues in the part being discussed.  No contribution will be made by Erdo on part 2 and part 3.

  1. Ines Martin from Boston Globe directed to Crd. Thottunkal: Have the Synod Fathers addressed the challenges of the families created by anti-Christian persecution in particular in your country the situation of the widows of Kandhamal?

Thottunkal: I come from a vast sub-continent.  Just a lot of diverse realities.  For example, the linguistic, ethnic, religious and some other (??).  We have a diversity of realities including the Christian minority in India.  Not only in one place as you mentioned, Kandamahal, are of great importance to us.  We had already a tragic story of Christians there.  At the same time, we are a community ever since 2000 years ago.  In the very beginning of Christianity it is present in India.  We have gone through different stages of our growth and I must say frankly we have difficult situations.  But that is not the end of it and Friday is not the end.  We look forward always for the Sunday to come.  You know what I mean.  Because it is suffering and the point of martyrdom and also witnessing through painful experiences is not something separate from the Christian identity—it is part of it.  Unnecessary violence, oppression—things are different.  But what I mean to say the community in India and different parts of the world undergoing such kind of a painful situation.  That is a reality.  How do we take it?  How do the other countries take it?  If it is an injustice all have to cooperate and say this is something bad.  If that is a local issue leave it to the local bodies.  At this time also it is good to mention about people who are refugees, chased away from their own motherland.  And thanks to the generous approach of our Pope Francis who tells everyone to accommodate.  At the same time I have a different point of view in saying these people are going away from their own mother countries, their land and going to be settled in some other places.  And the world community should encourage, ought to make possible, a feasible arrangement to these people to be accommodate in their own countries.  And I think the leaders of the world have to work together how to sustain these peoples in their own countries because there you have enough space.  The other place where you go, they are finding it difficult to accommodate because of the space and the difficulties there.  A stable solution is that we work together to keep these people in their own countries.

  1. From Josh McElwee, National Catholic Reporter to Crd Thottunkal: We have heard in two days tow things that are related. The one today speaking about a Synod Father who spoke about possibly a different Synod process, taking more time, a couple years, involving regional input as well.  And we also heard yesterday that there was expression that maybe there were certain issues could be handled not here at the Vatican but by regional or national bishops’ conferences.  I am wondering as head of your own bishops’ conference, what do you think of those proposals, particularly that certain things might be handled by local bishops’ conferences?

I don’t find any contradictions in those proposals because it has to come from the local space.  You have to start discussion from the local area and to bring it to the national and universal level.  This can be more highlighted with our own specified context.  For example, in India we have to discuss these later issues regarding marriage and family in the national conference and then you have also a common concerned idea of what you have to present at the universal level.  It goes very well so that the fruits of the Synod will be more tangible and comprehensive.

  1. I have a question about procedure. The IL text is the text for the Synod.  Will there be a 2/3 majority requirement to make amendments to it?  Will those paragraphs that didn’t have the 2/3 majority vote but were included by the pope need 2/3 majority to be amended?

Lombardi: In the small groups, if there is an absolute majority then proposals are accepted.  The theme of the 2/3 majority is only applicable to the final report.  We will see if there is a final report.

  1. I wish to focus on the aspect of mixed religious couples. Can you say something in greater detail?

Orsorio: This morning we had a marvelous testimony of a Catholic woman who married a Hindu man who was eventually baptized.  I will defer to the cardinal as he has had more experience with this.  I don’t know the official doctrine, but working with couples to convey mutual respect  This is the essence of religion.

Lombardi:  the practice of polygamy has been discussed.  How to help women facing difficulties in regards to polygamous marriages.  There are other positive situations however.  Last year there was an interreligious couple who were a witness to significant respect.  In some countries there is a position of interreligious dialogue.

Dorantes: Catholics in the Middle East marry inter-religiously.  Sometimes the husband leaves a Catholic woman.  How can we continue to keep her suffering?  It is a problem to be faced.

  1. How can we have three Synods? Last year there were synods here in Rome after the first one.  (I think this person is referring to the conservative stance that there were “shadow” synods held.  Actually these were just meetings of experts to discuss some issues relating to topics that came out of the Extraordinary Synod last year but the conservatives were insisting these groups were making conclusions to try to foist them on this year’s Synod….rr).  Also, how about the question of the possibility of no final report?

Osorio: We spoke of the pre-Synod phase.  (Note: this was something PF fostered at the end of last year.  He wanted on-going discussion of the issues, not from a doctrinal viewpoint, but focusing on the pastoral…rr)  But after this Synod, we would like to have discussion at the episcopal conference level to discuss local solutions.  Also at the diocesan level.  This could be a marvelous fruit of the Synod.  As to the final report, a dynamic approach in the Church is needed, not one self-centered.

Lombardi: 75 proposals and contributions were made today alone.  I will not insist on this proposal.  As to the question of the final report, at this time I cannot tell you what will happen at the end.  Maybe the Holy Father will clarify it.

  1. To Crd Thottunkal: There has been much talk of mercy and truth. Based on the contributions will the Synod remain pastoral or can we expect doctrinal aspects or in-depth analysis of doctrinal issues?

Thottunkal:  The Synod, in fact is destined to be a pastoral one.  Not only this Synod, all the Synods, because it gives some guidance to the pastors and the people around that pastoral community.  This is precisely speaking on the mercy of God.  That is what is being mentioned.  God has sent his Son because to show everyone the face of God, the mercy of God in the person of Jesus.  And that is being continued in the various missions of the Church.  And this one, this particular reality, the family, sacrament of the family and marriage, there are a lot of wealth, resources, positives and also areas to be encouraged in some areas and other areas to be also close with understanding and care and support.  That is what we always invite the mercy of God not only at one point of time, all the time so the Lord’s mercy is necessary.  At the same time I feel, it is my personal opinion, I feel that when we speak about God’s mercy it is also demanding a certain personal acceptance of being converted to that reception of mercy.  When I say receive it, I don’t reciprocate it, it is one way.  So it demands, in fact, also a point of conversion that is the individual receiving as well.  So, therefore, we need to have also a person is to be well-motivated understanding that he will move in that reality, and he should be supported, we should be merciful, at the same time we should also make this particular person or persons to receive God’s mercy in a more conducive atmosphere of conversion to the Lord because the
Gospel demands this as a condition.  “The kingdom of God is at hand, be converted” and that is the also the message of Jesus.  Jesus said “I forgive you but don’t sin anymore”.  It demands form me and from everyone this disposition as well.  I hope I am clear.

Lombardi: On Monday we will continue to provide you information on the small group discussions and any interventions.  We will have two couples on the panel to give you information and for you to ask questions.

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