Pope Francis at the opening of the Synod on the Family

Pope Francis addresses the Synod    Credit: Osservatore Romano
Pope Francis addresses the Synod Credit: Osservatore Romano

In his opening address to the Synod of Bishops on the Family last Sunday, the Pope Francis encouraged the assembly to take up once again the dialogue started last October and to continue the journey with pastoral zeal, doctrinal wisdom and frankness while always keeping eyes on the good of the Church and of families.

He mentioned that the Synod is neither convention, parliament nor senate where people make deals and reach compromises. It is rather an Ecclesiastical expression and a protected space in which the Church experiences the action of the Holy Spirit.
Speaking on the principal topic of family, the Pope said that people today are, “less and less serious about building a solid and fruitful relationship of love: in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, in good times and in bad.”

He went on to say, “love which is lasting, faithful, conscientious, stable and fruitful is increasingly looked down upon, viewed as a quaint relic of the past.  It would seem that the most advanced societies are the very ones which have the lowest birth rates and the highest percentages of abortion, divorce, suicide, and social and environmental pollution.”  Pope Francis said that God did not make men and women to live in sorrow or alone but, rather, for happiness.

On the opening day Cardinal Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, said the Synod should reflect on the possibility of allowing for female deacons as it seeks ways to open up more opportunities for women in church life. “Where possible, he said, “qualified women should be given higher positions and decision-making authority within church structures and new opportunities in ministry.”

At the close of the first part of the Synod of Bishops on the Family in October 2014, conservatives concerned with upholding traditional Catholic doctrine appeared stumped by concerted efforts on several fronts, including a relaxation on taking Communion for Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church.

Leading conservative Cardinal Peter Erdo appeared then to be sidelined by more progressive prelates, especially Archbishop Bruno Forte who produced his controversial report calling for greater openness on divorce, homosexuality and other sensitive topics.

On the opening of the second part of the Synod this week, Cardinal Erdo worked to close a series of doors that many believed the last synod had left open, beginning with the proposal by Cardinal Walter Casper to allow divorced and civilly re-married Catholics to receive Communion. 

Archbishop of Washington DC, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, said that the opening days of the Synod of Bishops are going smoothly, “we’re just beginning, but we’re off to a good start.”