Papa Francesco meets and greets large groups every week in St. Peter’s “Square” almost every Wednesday. During these “General Audiences”, as they are called, he gives what he calls a “catechesis”, or teaching, on a subject. He usually picks a theme that he will then talk about for several weeks. For example, he just completed a cycle on “The Church”. He is quite a good teacher, having taught for quite a few years in his younger days. Recently he began a new cycle of these talks, saying they would be on “The Family” for the next year. He says he is doing this to get us ready for the next session of the synod this coming October, the Ordinary Synod of Bishops, continuing the work begun on pastoral issues around the family begun this last October in the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops. As he says, this is a process that we should all familiarize ourselves with, stay connected to by reading about it, and also pray about. He is determined in his efforts to have the synod process work to the benefit of all families and the Church. He is meeting stiff resistance in his efforts so I think we should all take the time to keep up on this, and of course, pray about and pray for him. In a recent meeting of the local group of Concerned Catholics of Montana, I mentioned that PF was giving this latest cycle of talks and that I translate his entire talk because the Vatican website only posts the brief synopsis of it in English as it has been read out after he speaks. Some of the folks at that meeting asked me to post my translation of this latest cycle on this web site. I am happy to do so but please keep in mind, I am a rookie translator. I do try to find an English translation to compare it to, most of the time via letting google translate do its thing on the Vatican website posting. By the way, I follow the original text very closely, even to punctuation and sentence structure which is a bit different than what you may be used to seeing. Below is the first in this latest cycle of catechesis in which he gives us his experience of the just finished session of the Synod. It is a good summation of the process with his interesting perspective…..Reyanna
The Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family
Dear brothers and sister, good day
We have concluded a cycle of catechesis on the Church. Thank the Lord who made us make this journey of rediscovery of the beauty and responsibilities of membership in the Church, to be Church, all of us.
Now we begin a new stage, a new cycle, and the theme will be the family: a theme that fits in this intermediate time between the two Assemblies of the Synod dedicated to the reality so important. Therefore, before entering into the path of the various aspects of family life, today I want to start only with the Assembly of the Synod of last month, in October, that had this theme: “The pastoral challenges in the family in the context of the New Evangelization.” It is important to remember how it took place and what it has produced, how it went and what it produced.
During the Synod, the media, the media have done their job—there was a lot of expectation, a lot of attention and I thank them because they did it with abundance. A lot of news, a lot. This was possible thanks to the Press Office that held a briefing every day. But, often the vision of the media was a bit in the style of sports coverage or politics: they often spoke of two teams, for and against, conservative and progressive, etc. Today I would like tell what the Synod was.
In the beginning, I asked the Synodal fathers to speak with frankness and courage and to listen with humility, to say with courage everything that they had in the heart. In the Synod there was no prior censorship, but each could—more should—say what they had in the heart, what they sincerely thought. “But, this will make debates.” It is true, we felt like the Apostles debated: The text says : output is strong argument. The Apostles rebuked each other among themselves because they sought the will of God on the pagans, if they could enter the Church or not. This was a new thing. Always, when searching the will of God, in a synodal assembly, there are diverse points of view and there is discussion and this is not a bad thing! Provided that you do it with humility and a spirit of service to the assembly of brothers. Prior censorship would be a bad thing. No, no, everyone must say what he thought. After the initial Relazione of Card. Erdo, there was a first stage, fundamental, in which all the Fathers were able to speak, and all listened. And there was an uplifting attitude of listening that the Fathers had. A moment of great freedom when everyone exposed his thinking with parresia and with confidence. At the foundation of the interventions was the “Instrument of Work”, fruit of the preceding consultations of all the Church. And which I must thank the Secretary of the Synod for the great work that was done before and during the Assembly. It really was great.
No intervention questioned the fundamentals of the Sacrament of Matrimony, that is: indissolubility, unity, fidelity, and openness to life (cfr Ecumenical Council Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 48; Code of Canon Law, 1055-1056). This was not touched.
All the interventions were collected and so it has come to the second stage, that is a draft that is called the Relatio after the discussions. Also, this Relatio was carried out by Crd. Erdo, articulated in three points: listening to the context and challenges of the family; the fixed gaze on Christ and the Gospel of the family; the comparison with pastoral perspectives
The group discussions were held on this synthesis of proposal, that was the third stage. The groups, as always, were divided by language because it is better that way, you communicate better: Italian, English, Spanish and French. Each group, at the end of its work, presented a report, and all the reports of the groups were immediately published. Everything was given, for transparency, so that you knew what was going on.
At this point—it is the fourth stage—a commission examined all the emerged suggestions of the linguistic groups and the final Relatio was made, which has retained the previous outline—listening to the reality, look to the Gospel, and pastoral commitment—but sought to transpose the fruit of the group discussions. As always, the final Message of the Synod was also approved, shorter and more informative than the Relatio.
This was the carrying out of the Synod. Some of you may ask me: “Did the Fathers quarrel?” But, I don’t know if they quarreled, but they spoke strongly, yes, indeed. And this is freedom, it is truly freedom, that is in the Church. Everything occurred “with Peter and under Peter”, that is with the presence of the Pope, who is the guarantee for all of the freedom and trust, and guarantee of orthodoxy. And at the end with my speech I gave a synthetic interpretation of the synodal experience
Therefore, the official documents coming out of the Synod are three: the final Message, the final Relatio, and the final speech of the Pope. There are no others.
The final Relatio, which was the point of arrival for all the reflection of the Dioceses until then, yesterday was published and sent to the Episcopal Conferences, who will discuss it in view of the next Assembly, that Ordinary, in October 2015. I say yesterday it was published—it had already been published—but yesterday it was published with the questions addressed to the Episcopal Conferences and so becomes properly the lineamenta of the next Synod.
You need to know that the Synod is not a Parliament, is representative of this Church, of this Church, of this Church…No, it is not this. It is representative, yes, but the structure is not a parliament, it is totally different. The Synod is protected space so that the Holy Spirit can work: there was no clash of factions, as in a parliament where this is permissible, but a comparison among the Bishops, that came after a long work of preparation and that now will continue in another work, for the good of the family, of the Church, of society. It is a process, it is the normal synodal journey. Now this Relatio returns to the particular Churches and so continues then the work of prayer, reflection and fraternal discussion in order to prepare the next assembly. This is the Synod of Bishops. We entrust it to the protection of the Virgin, our Mother. That she will help it to follow the will of God, taking the pastoral decisions that will help more and better the family. I ask you to accompany with prayer this synodal path to the next Synod. That the Lord illuminates it, makes it go toward the maturity of that, as the Synod, it must say to all the Churches And on this your prayer is important.