Sunday, October 26, 2014

NOVEMBER CALENDERS

There will be a Mass at St. Bridget's at noon on the Feast of All Saints.
Also, on Thanksgiving, November 27, Mass will be celebrated at 10AM
For a larger view click the image


Monday, October 20, 2014

A Journey Together - Pope Francis Addresses the Synod fathers

The Vatican Information Service reports that at the conclusion of the fifteenth and final general congregation, and after the votes had been cast, Pope Francis addressed the Synod Fathers.VIS. In his address, he affirmed that the participants in the Third Extraordinary General Assembly have truly experienced synodality, a path of solidarity, a “journey together”. 

The VIS report of the Pontiff's remarks follow:

However, Pope Francis observed, as in every journey there were moments of travelling smoothly and swiftly, as if wishing to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible, and moments of fatigue, of wanting to say “enough”, and at other times, moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and pains of the faithful; moments of consolation, grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and joy of married life. It is a journey during which the stronger are compelled to help those who are less strong, and the more experienced lend themselves to serve others, also through debate.

He continued by remarking that since it is a journey taken by human beings, there have also been moments of disappointment, tension and temptation, of which he gave five examples. The first is the temptation to hostile inflexibility, closing oneself within the written word, the letter of the law, rather than the spirit, not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, and cleaving to the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. This, he said, is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and the so-called “traditionalists and intellectuals.

Then there is the temptation of “do-goodism”, that in the name of deceptive mercy binds wounds without first treating and healing them; that addresses symptoms rather than causes and roots. It is the temptation of do-gooders, of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals”.

The third temptation is to transform stones into bread to break the long, hard, and painful fast; and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick; to transform it into unbearable burdens. The fourth is the temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, rather than remaining there in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and turning it to the Spirit of God. Finally, there is the temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei”, thinking of ourselves not as guardians but as its owners or masters; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous and pompous language to say much yet at the same time to say nothing.

However, the Holy Father commented these temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, as no disciple is greater than his master, so if Jesus Himself was tempted, and even called Beelzebul, then His disciples should not expect better treatment. He added that he would be worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions, this movement of the spirits, as it was called by St. Ignatius; if all were in a state of agreement or silent in false, quietist peace.

Instead, he expressed his joy at having heard speeches and interventions full of faith, pastoral and doctrinal zeal, wisdom, frankness, courage, and parrhesia, since what was set before the eyes of the Synod Fathers was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law”, the “salus animarum”. This occurred without ever calling into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage, its indissolubility, unity, faithfulness, fruitfulness, and openness to life.

Pope Francis went on to emphasise that the Church is the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on wounds; who does not regard humanity from a glass house, ready to judge or categorise people. The Church is one, holy, Catholic, apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God's mercy. The Church is the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine; she is not afraid to dine and drink with prostitutes and publicans. Her doors are wide open to receive the needy, the repentant, and not only those who consider themselves perfect. The Church is not ashamed of the brother who has fallen, pretending not to see him, but on the contrary is involved and obliged to lift him up and set him on the path again, accompanying him to the definitive encounter with her spouse, in heavenly Jerusalem.

This, he continued, is the Church, our Mother. And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. This should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators have imagined that they see a quarrelsome Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners. The Pope emphasised the need to live through all this calmly and with inner peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro, with the presence of the Pope as a guarantee for all.

The duty of the Pope, he remarked, is to guarantee the unity of the Church, to remind the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow Christ's Gospel and to remind the pastors that their first duty is to nurture the flock that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek the lost sheep with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears. His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, when he stated that the Church is called and commits herself to exercising this kind of authority which is service … not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ ... through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter … to participate in his mission of taking care of God's People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community.

As the Council stated, the Church's role is to ensure that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free. It is through us, Pope Benedict continues, that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord; this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant, gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope.

Therefore, said the Pontiff, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – “Il servus servorum Dei”, the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, setting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful and despite enjoying supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church.

Finally, Francis reminded those present that there remains a year before the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in which to develop, with true spiritual discernment, the ideas that have been proposed, and to find concrete solutions to many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families. There is a year to work on the “Relatio Synodi”, the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. He concluded by asking the Lord to accompany and guide all the participants in the Synod in their journey.

Final Report and Votes Conclude Work of the Synod of Bishops

Saturday afternoon the work of the Third Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to “Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation”, concluded with a final synodal report (Relatio Synodi), the different points of which were subject to a vote by the Synod Fathers. The Holy Father authorised the immediate publication of the full text of the Relatio Synodi, which will provide the focus for reflection by all the Episcopal Conferences throughout the world this year in preparation for the Synod Assembly in October 2015, and which was approved by a majority of Synod Fathers. He also authorised the publication of the number of votes for each point.
(from VIS 19 October 2014)

Here is a link to the full text of the Relatio Synod and the result of the votes.
Currently the report is available only in Italian, the official language of the Synod.


Third English Language Small Group Report

Relatio - Circulus Anglicus "C"
Moderator: S.E. Mons. Joseph Edward KURTZ
Relator: S.E. Mons. Stephen BRISLIN

Anglicus Group C was surprised by the release of the Relatio to the media but nonetheless we were able to complete our work with openness and frankness.
1. Marriage is a gift of God to man, a blessing given by him for the well-being of his creatures, made in his image. From the beginning God ordained that it is not good for man to live alone and so he created for him a helpmate, one equal to him, that they may live in relational complementarity. This gift, this mystery of attraction and love between man and woman, was recognized from earliest times as coming from God. In the New Testament, the relationship between man and woman is deepened and explained even more fully and as mirroring the relationship between Christ and his Body, the Church. Through the centuries, the Church has built on this Biblical teaching in order to teach and assist Christians to live and appreciate marital life as God intended it to be lived and appreciated; she has also strived to protect the meaning and mystery of marriage, safeguarding the treasure of which we are stewards, so that it will not be trivialized or seen as a mere human institution separated from God's will and his love. The gift of self in marriage, which in some way manifests the self-giving of Jesus Christ to his people, reaches its fullest expression in sexual intercourse, where the couple express their total giving of self to other, emotionally, physically and spiritually, and not as a selfish self-gratification. It is in such self-giving that we become more human and more Christ-like. It is important that the Scriptural foundation for marriage, as well as the teaching found in Tradition, be made clear in the document from its beginning in order to build the framework for the issues to be discussed.

2. We strongly felt that the tone of the entire document should express our confidence in marriage. Reflecting on the pastoral challenges of marriage and family life in itself necessitates considering brokenness, pain and loneliness and a caring response to those in need. The challenges also cause us to reflect on questions being asked about the usefulness of marriage, as well as to consider the attempts to propose different forms of marriage. We should not fall into the trap of thinking, or in some way conveying, that marriage and family are a failure, no longer appropriate to our times. We must not lose sight of the fact that there are many marriages that – despite the ups and downs of life – do radiate harmony and love, where children are raised in a safe environment, are nurtured and educated in virtue and the values taught to us by Christ, and where the family is truly a domestic Church. We must acknowledge that the faithful are committed to marriage and that many families give hope, are an inspiration and example to others, especially younger couples.

3. For this reason, the document should also give encouragement to those committed to their marriages and families. They must not lose hope. The Church needs them, indeed the world needs them. Their efforts are appreciated and the Church is committed to giving them support and pastoral care. They are witnesses to married life as a vocation to holiness; of themselves, they proclaim that fruitful, life-long commitment in marriage is attainable, and this must be stated clearly. They are witnesses to the love of Christ for his people – they give concrete expression to his self-giving love. They have an essential role to play in evangelization, the spread of the Gospel, especially at a time when the Church wishes to make new efforts, using new methods and with renewed energy, to evangelize the world and to enter into dialogue with the world. Their families are truly missionary, faithful to the command given to us by Christ, to go to the world.

4. Thus, it is important that the document does not, in any way, weaken the hope that such marriages express, or weaken the commitment that the members have for each other. We rightly wish to welcome, without judgement or condemnation, those who, for some reason, are not yet able to express life-long commitment in a marriage between a man and a woman. We wish also to give them encouragement, to help them recognize their own goodness, and to care for them as Christ cares for his sheep. We wish them to know that they are loved by God and rejected neither by him nor the Church. In expressing such sentiments we may inadvertently convey the impression that marriage is not important, or that it is an ideal that only a few select people can achieve. It is possible that some may even have the impression that all unions are equal. For this reason, we felt it necessary to carefully define the meaning of the law of gradualness, which should not be understood as gradualness of the law. Gradualness should not make insipid the challenge of the Gospel to conversion, to "go and sin no more", as Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery. The aim of recognizing gradualness should be to draw people closer to Christ. Truth and mercy are not mutually exclusive terms, and in proclaiming truth we also proclaim the most profound mercy – that of reconciliation and unity with God; on the other hand, it is in mercy that we find truth.

5. Bearing this in mind, the document must be a positive expression of the Church's love for all people, the love which knows no bounds and which welcomes sinners and those who are made to be on the fringes of society. We understand that for many their situation in life may not be a free choice, that economic circumstances limit many people in that which can be achieved, that the prevailing culture itself can limit free choice. In dealing with the detail of each section of the document, and closely examining the wording, we were conscious that we may well be losing sight of the necessity for the document to express the welcome, acceptance and the love for those in difficult and painful circumstances, those who are searching for truth and for those longing for the comfort of Christ's healing.

6. The task presented to us during the synod has made it clear that proper pastoral care of the married and for those in other relationships, demands well-formed priests, who are properly trained in issues of marriage and family life, and who have the pastoral heart to care and welcome those who seek Christ. Acknowledgement should be given to those lay organizations and associations that are committed to strengthening marriage and who make themselves available to couples who are experiencing pain and difficulty, giving them support and encouragement. They have an increasingly important role to play. Furthermore, acknowledgement and encouragement must also be given to those movements which specifically give witness to marriage and family as part of their charism.

7. We are grateful for the openness that has prevailed throughout this Extraordinary Synod. This has enabled us to listen to the insights and experiences of many people which has helped present a balanced and comprehensive appreciation of the vibrancy of family life and also of various concerns. Especially beneficial were the insights from different cultures which has enriched and deepened our knowledge – this has only been possible as a result, not only of the freedom to express ourselves, but also the willingness to listen by all participants.
[03042-02.03] [Original text: English]

Friday, October 17, 2014

Second English Language Small Group Report

Relatio - Circulus Anglicus "B"
Moderator: Em.mo Card. Wilfrid Fox NAPIER, O.F.M.
Relator: S.E. Mons. Diarmuid MARTIN

Of the Synodal Fathers members of the group: five were from Africa, seven from Asia, one each from Oceania, the United States of America and Europe. The uditores and a fraternal delegate contributed significantly to the reflection of the group.

In the first place, the group strongly felt that the Relatio ended up placing too much emphasis on the problems facing the family and did not stress sufficiently the need to provide an enthusiastic message which would encourage and inspire hope for those Christian families who despite many challenges and even failures - strive every day to live out faithfully and joyfully their mission and vocation within the Church and society.

The group proposed to add at the beginning of the Report — as was done in the Instrumentum Laboris - some paragraphs clearly stressing how the Word of God, and the beauty of the Gospel of Marriage, must be central to the entire focus of the Final Report of the Synod.

The group asked me to record explicitly its concern about some of the conclusions drawn in the Relatio, about its methodology, its complicated language (compounded by poor translation) and of the effects of its publication before it had been reviewed by the Synodal Fathers. Despite these difficulties the Group enthusiastically and profitably took up the discussion of the Relatio.

The task of the extraordinary Synod was to draw up a picture of the family and of the challenges facing the pastoral activity of the Church in today's complex and diverse world. Inevitably this meant that it would focus on problems and on some of the principal challenges which are of particular concern in the Church today.

However, the Report of the Synod should go beyond a mere focus on the problems and the pathology of marriage and the family. The group felt that it could well draw on the testimonies - and the language - of the lay men and women who addressed the Synod.

Many in the group felt that a young person reading the Relatio would if anything become even less enthusiastic about undertaking the challenging vocation of Christian matrimony. The Synod Report - and the Message - should direct itself towards young people, to help them understand and be attracted by the Christian vision of marriage and the family, in a world in which they are exposed to many contradictory visions.

It was felt that in the current situation of widespread cultural confusion about marriage and the family and the human suffering that this can bring, there is an urgent need for leadership in today's world and that such clear leadership can only come from the Church. Such leadership is an urgent part of the Church's service to contemporary society and a failure to give such witness would be to fail humanity.

Some members of the group stressed the need of pastors to recognize their own failures and their inadequacies in fostering support for families. The Church needs a radical renewal of its style of ministry to families. Marriage accompaniment is a lifelong task not limited to preparation for the wedding. It is a task which belongs within a broad faith itinerary and must encourage and foster family prayer.

The main thrust should be to encourage those who are committed and witness to the Christian ideal and who struggle day by day, with the help of God's grace to realize that ideal. This is important to stress as we move towards the Ordinary Session of the Synod of 2015 which is about "the vocation and mission of the family".

The Church must of course also reach out to the realities of those whose lives do not yet fully realize that ideal. The problems should not be allowed to steal the principal narrative, but neither should the narrative end up marginalizing or discouraging those are still struggling.

It is not primarily a question of producing new documents or of simply repeating the Church's teaching, but of reaching out and finding a language which can help the men and women and especially the young people of our time to open their hearts and minds to the Gospel of the Family, to understand it and to be attracted by it. This new language must dig deeper into the treasury of the faith and tradition of the Church and find ways of listening to the lived experience of faithful couples of their Sacrament of Matrimony.

The Church must teach with clarity, but must also, as one member of the group stressed, "have the courage to knock on forbidden doors". Very often when we find the courage to knock on forbidden doors what we discover surprises us: what we encounter inside is the loving presence of God which helps us to address the challenges of today, no longer on our terms, but in new ways which might otherwise have been unimaginable. Knocking on forbidden or unaccustomed doors involves risk and courage. Fear and anxiety of what we think are forbidden doors may mean excluding opening ourselves to the God who always surprises.

All of us need the help of the mercy of God. The mercy of God is not just a medicine, much less a consolation prize, for those who fail. None of us can be faithful without experiencing God's mercy. No one should devalue the place of mercy in the economy of salvation.

Let me briefly present some of the more significant conclusions of the group.

On the subject of the admission of the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist the group stressed two principles flowing directly from God's Word:
the clear affirmation of the indissolubility of a valid sacramental union, while humbly admitting that we need a more credible way of presenting and witnessing to that teaching;
the strong desire to invite and embrace sincere Catholics who feel alienated from the family of the Church because of irregular situations.

The group recalled the necessity of finding a new vocabulary to preserve the timeless teaching of the Church in a fresh and appealing manner. It recommended the examination of possible paths of repentance and discernment by which, in particular circumstances, a divorced and remarried person might participate in the sacraments; and about providing alternatives, such as a deeper appreciation of the classical wisdom and value of spiritual communion.

It was strongly emphasized that such brothers and sisters remain part of the Church and must be encouraged to remain part of the Church through prayer, attendance at Mass, the practice of virtue, participation in small Christian communities and apostolic service. They must always encounter in the Church the welcoming gaze and embrace of Jesus.

The group expressed concern about an over emphasis on the term "positive elements" when speaking of civil marriage and cohabitation. It preferred language which would address the law of gradualness as a way to enter into a pastoral dialogue with such people and seek to identify elements of their life which might lead them towards a greater openness to the Gospel of Marriage in its fullness. We must identify elements which could become bridges in our efforts of evangelization of the many who do not yet or no longer correspond to the ideal. It was stressed that the law of gradualness always involves a progression and a conversion towards the full ideal.

On the subject of the pastoral care of persons with homosexual tendencies, the group noted that the Church must continue to promote the revealed nature of marriage as always between one man and one woman united in lifelong, life-giving, and faithful communion.

The group encouraged pastors and parishes to care for individuals with same sex attraction, providing for them in the family of the Church, always protecting their dignity as children of God, created in his image. Within the Church, they should find a home where, with everyone else, they hear the call of Jesus to follow Him in fidelity to the truth, to receive His grace to do so, and. His mercy when they fail.

On the question of openness to life, it was noted that in many areas of the world children are seen as a burden rather than a gift of God. The group stressed that children are really the supreme gift of marriage. Hence, while not making the other purposes of matrimony of less account, the true practice of conjugal love will help couples to be ready with generous hearts to cooperate with the love of the Creator who through them will enlarge and enrich His own family day by day.In this light, the group felt that the Church should revisit and give a positive reevaluation of the message of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae for the formation of conscience regarding family planning.

On the subject of polygamy the group tried to define more clearly the specific pastoral challenges in different parts of the world. The primary pastoral challenge concerns new converts who are in a polygamous marriage who were not yet Christians when they entered into a polygamous union. A comprehensive pastoral study is recommended to be undertaken by the Episcopal Conferences of Africa.

The group recommended a new conclusion to the Relatio focusing on our Blessed Mother, who with her spouse St. Joseph, because of her unique role in the Holy Family of Nazareth and at the wedding feast of Cana and continues to play an important role in the Church. Married couples should have recourse to her especially when they face difficult challenges in their lives so that Mary our Mother may be an anchor of hope for all Christian families.
[03042-02.02] [Original text: English]

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Twelfth General Congregation: Vatican Information Service comments on Small Group Reports

The twelfth General Congregation included the presentation, in the Assembly, of the Reports of the Small Groups, divided according to language: In general, the Small Groups presented both an evaluation of the “Relatio post disceptationem” (RPD), a provisional document published at the midway point during the Synod, as well as proposals to incorporate in the “Relatio Synodi” (RS), the definitive and conclusive document of the Assembly.
"Firstly, some perplexity was voiced regarding to the publication, although legitimate, of the RPD since, it was said, this is a working document that does not express a univocal opinion shared by all the Synod Fathers. Therefore, after expressing their appreciation of the work involved in drawing up the text and regarding its structure, the Small Groups presented their suggestions.
It was first underlined that in the RPD there is a focus on the concerns of families in crisis, without broader reference to the positive message of the Gospel of the family or to the fact that marriage as a sacrament, an indissoluble union between man and woman, retains a very current value in which many couples believe. Therefore, the hope was expressed that the RS may contain a strong message of encouragement and support for the Church and for faithful married couples.
Furthermore, it was remarked that it is essential to underline more clearly the doctrine on marriage, emphasising that it is a gift from God. It was further proposed that elements not contained in the RPD be integrated in the RS, such as the theme of adoption, expressing the hope that bureaucratic procedures be streamlined, both at national and international levels, and also the themes of biotechnology and the spread of culture via the internet, which may condition family life, as well as a note regarding the importance of policies in favour of the family.
In addition, it was said that greater attention should be paid to the presence of the elderly within families, and to families who live in conditions of extreme poverty. The grave problems of prostitution, female genital mutilation and the exploitation of minors for sexual purposes and for labour were denounced. It is important, it was said, to underline the essential role of families in evangelisation and in the transmission of faith, highlighting their missionary vocation. Overall, the aim is to offer a balanced and global idea of the “family” in a Christian sense.
With regard to difficult family situations, the Small Groups highlighted that the Church should be a welcoming home for all, in order that no-one feel refused. However, greater clarity was advocated, to avoid confusion, hesitation and euphemisms in language, regarding for example the law of gradualness, so that it does not become gradualness of the law. Various Groups, furthermore, expressed perplexity regarding the analogy made with paragraph 8 of “Lumen Gentium”, inasmuch as this could give the impression of a willingness on the part of the Church to legitimise irregular family situations, even though these may represent a phase in the itinerary towards the sacrament of marriage. Other Groups expressed their hope for a more in-depth focus on the concept of “spiritual communion”, so that it may be evaluated and eventually promoted and disseminated.
With regard to possibility of divorced and remarried persons partaking in the sacrament of the Eucharist, two main perspectives emerged: on the one hand, it was suggested that the doctrine not be modified and to remain as it is at present; on the other, to open up the possibility of communication, with an approach based on compassion and mercy, but only under certain conditions. In other cases, furthermore, it was suggested that the matter be studied by a specific interdisciplinary Commission. Greater care was suggested in relation to divorced persons who have not remarried, and who are often heroic witnesses of conjugal fidelity. At the same time, an acceleration of the procedures for acknowledging matrimonial nullity and the confirmation of validity was advocated; furthermore, it was emphasised that children are not a burden but rather a gift from God, the fruit of love between spouses.
A more “Christ-centric” orientation was required, as well as clearer emphasis of the link between the sacraments of marriage and baptism. The vision of the world must be one which passes through the lens of the Gospel, to encourage men and women to the conversion of the heart.
Furthermore, it was emphasised that, despite the impossibility of equating marriage between a man and a woman with homosexual unions, persons of this orientation must receive pastoral accompaniment and their dignity must be protected, without however implying that this may indicate a form of approval, on the part of the Church, of their orientation and way of life. With regard to the issue of polygamy, especially polygamists who convert to Catholicism and wish to partake in the sacraments, thorough study was suggested.
The Small Groups advocated broader reflection on the figure of Mary and the Holy Family, to be better promoted as a model for reference for all family units. Finally, it was asked that it be highlighted that the RS will in any case be a preparatory document for the Ordinary Synod scheduled for October 2015."
from VISnews141016

Reports of the Small Groups of the Synod of Bishops Published


The Vatican Information Service reports that the text of the reports by the Small Groups of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops  was presented this morning during the twelfth General Congregation. It may be consulted on the Holy See Press Office Bulletin web page.

There were three reports in each of four languages (Italian, French, Spanish and English)

The first of the English language reports follows. The other two will fbe in subsequent posts.

Moderator: Em.mo Card. Raymond Leo BURKE
Relator: S.E. Mons. John Atcherley DEW
I present this report of behalf of the English speaking group Anglicus "A". The group has suggested a number of amendments to the RELATIO POST DISCEPTATIONEM, some are major amendments and others quite small, nevertheless they have significant meaning attached to them. In proposing amendments we have shifted the focus from particular situations described in the Relatio to the people involved in the situations, concentrating on the goodness to be found in them.
We believed that there needed to be a new introduction to the Relatio. Our proposed Introduction is placed within the context of the great gift of the Sacrament of Matrimony and the grace of God freely given through the sacraments. It also provides a theological anthropological foundation, which we believe is needed in order to address serious issues spoken on in the Synod. We have addressed these issues within the context of Scripture and the remarkably rich Magisterium of the Church. We want the final Synod document to speak of human life, marriage and family life, as we know it to be revealed to us by God through reason and faith, both aided by the grace of God. The Relatio Synodi must proclaim the truth of the Gospel, the truth of human life and sexuality as revealed by Christ. The Word of Christ illuminates our knowledge of human nature and the intrinsic sexuality of man and woman through the natural law.
We agreed that this is to be a pastoral document, as has been expressed as the wish of the Synod, a document which speaks to people about the often critical issues which confront families today. Those issues cannot be separated from Church teaching found in the treasury of her documentation. We are aware that the final Relatio Synodi will be discussed and debated over the next year; therefore as we proposed amendments we indicated appropriate references to the Sacred Scriptures and Magisterial documents
We referred to the methodology used as appearing to be based on the SEE, JUDGE, ACT principles, but in this case it was LISTEN, JUDGE, ACT.
LISTEN and observe what others are saying and what the situation is regarding marriage and family life in the world today.
JUDGE according to what we have been gifted with through the Deposit of Faith.
ACT through our pastoral accompanying of all God’s people entrusted to our care.

We have attempted to show in our amendments that the "Listening" or "seeing" must always be through the lens of the Gospel. Our Proposals have stressed God’s love and our pastoral love and care for individuals, while at the same time honestly recognizing and acknowledging sinful situations, and searching for ways to invite conversion of heart.
In our amendments we see suggest a return to the SEE, Judge, Act formula.
We know that the final Synod document gives us a wonderful opportunity to influence the prevailing culture and for the Church to present the way of Jesus Christ who is "The Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14). Our amendments have tried to show that living as disciples of Jesus Christ, with all the challenges that brings is the life that leads to true joy and human happiness.
For example, where the Relatio appeared to be suggesting that sex outside of marriage may be permissible, or that cohabitation may be permissible, we have attempted to show why such lifestyles do not lead to human fulfillment. At the same time, we want to acknowledge that there are seeds of truth and goodness found in the persons involved, and through dedicated pastoral care these can be appreciated and developed. We believe that if we imply that certain life-styles are acceptable, then concerned and worried parents could very easily say "Why are we trying so hard to encourage our sons and daughters to live the Gospel and embrace Church teaching?"
We did not recommend the admission to the sacraments of divorced and re-married people, but we included a very positive and much –needed appreciation of union with Christ through other means.
The group recognizes and favors the concern and compassion the Relatio shows for those who face difficult pastoral situations in their lives. However our amendments suggest that we express these carefully so as not to create confusion in the minds and hearts of our people.
We had serious questions about the presentation of the principle of GRADUALITY. We wished to show in our amendments that we are not speaking of the GRADUALITY of DOCTRINE of faith and morals, but rather the gradual moral growth of the individual in his or her actions.
We also believe that in the Relatio Synodi we need to express words of encouragement and support to those who are faithfully living out their marriage vows and bringing up their families according to the teaching of the Church. We are grateful to those married couples who gave their witness in the Synod Hall and thank them sincerely. We also wish to address words of encouragement to grandparents and extended family members who support their families often at great expense to themselves.
There is agreement that the Relatio Synodi needs to be a pastoral document in which we use language which does not hurt people but which encourages them and helps them in their journey to God. It must speak the Truth of the Gospel clearly and directly, using language that cannot be interpreted by some to be condemning them, but rather expressing the Church’s deep interest and care for them.
As the Conclusion of the Relatio Post Disceptationem states the Synodal dialogue took place in freedom and a spirit of reciprocal listening. It has certainly raised questions that will have to be seriously considered and clarified by reflection in the Particular Churches of the world over the next year. Our prayer too is that all God’s people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit will find roads of truth and mercy for all. We thank Pope Francis for the invitation to us to live the courage of faith and the humble and honest welcome of the truth in charity.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vatican Information Services News for October 14 2014

The contents of the English Language Vatican Information Services Announcement for October 14 is reproduced below.

Declaration of the director of the Holy See Press Office on behalf of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops

Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – The General Secretariat of the Synod, in response to reactions and discussions following the publication of the Relatio post disceptationem, and the fact that often a value has been attributed to the document that does not correspond to its nature, reiterates that it is a working document, which summarises the interventions and debate of the first week, and is now being offered for discussion by the members of the Synod gathered in the Small Groups, in accordance with the Regulations of the Synod.

The work of the Small Groups will be presented to the Assembly in the General Congregation next Thursday morning.

Debate of the Synod Fathers following the post-discussion Report

Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – During the eleventh General Congregation the “Relatio post disceptationem” was read by the General Rapporteur, Cardinal Peter Erdo.

Immediately after, there followed a period of free discussion among the Synod Fathers. In general, the “Relatio post disceptationem” was appreciated for its capacity to photograph well the interventions that have been offered during this last week, capturing the spirit of the Assembly and highlighting acceptance and welcome as the principle theme of the works. The document, it was said, reveals the Church’s love for the family faithful to Christ, but also her capacity to be close to humanity in every moment of life, to understand that, behind the pastoral challenges, there are many people who suffer. The Synod, it was emphasised, should have the watchful gaze of the shepherd who devotes his life to his sheep, without a priori judgement.

Furthermore, to allow this Report to bring together various points of view to provide a basis for the work of the Small Groups, certain additional reflections were suggested: for example, while the Church must welcome those in difficulty, it would be useful to speak more widely about those families who remain faithful to the teachings of the Gospel, thanking them and encouraging them for the witness they offer. From the Synod it emerged more clearly that indissoluble, happy marriage, faithful for ever, is beautiful, possible and present in society, therefore avoiding a near-exclusive focus on imperfect family situations.

Other reflections involved giving more emphasis to the theme of women, their protection and their importance for the transmission of life and faith; to include consideration of the figure of grandparents within the family unit; more specific reference to the family as a “domestic Church” and the parish as a “family of families”, and to the Holy Family, an essential model for reference. In this respect, it was also suggested that the family and missionary role in proclaiming the Gospel in the world be further promoted.

It is necessary to clarify and explore more deeply the theme of “gradualness”, that may give rise to confusion. With regard to access to the sacraments for divorced and remarried persons, for instance, it was said that it is difficult to accept exceptions unless in reality they become a common rule.

It was also noted that the word “sin” is almost absent from the Relatio. The prophetic tone of Jesus’ words was also mentioned, to avoid the risk of conformity to the mentality of today’s world.

In relation to homosexuals, moreover, the need for welcome was highlighted, but with the just produced, so that the impression of a positive evaluation of such a tendency on the part of the Church is not created. The same care was advised with regard to cohabitation.

Other insights regarded the need to emphasise the importance of the sacrament of Baptism, essential for fully understanding the sacramental nature of marriage and also its character as a “ministry” in the announcement of the Gospel.

With regard to procedures for the streamlining of cases of nullity, some questions were raised regarding the proposal to entrust greater competence to the diocesan bishop, which may prove to be too great a burden, while the need for deeper and more detailed reflection was indicated in relation to cases of polygamy – especially for those who convert and wish to partake in the sacraments – and the spread of pornography, especially on the internet, which poses a real risk to family unity. Finally, in relation to openness to life on the part of couples, it is necessary to face in more detail and more decisively not only abortion, but also that of surrogacy.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Report of Extraordinary Synod on the Family Published

The “post-discussion report” of the Extraordinary Synod on the family was presented this morning by the General Rapporteur of the Assembly, Cardinal Peter Erdo. It summarizes the Synod Fathers’ main reflections that emerged during the General Congregations during recent days.

The body of the report is divided into three Parts

Part I   Listening: the context and challenges to the family
The socio-cultural context
The relevance of emotional life
Pastoral challenges

Part II   The gaze on Christ: the Gospel of the Family
The gaze on Jesus and gradualness in the history of salvation
The family in God’s salvific plan
The discernment of values present in wounded families and irregular situations
Truth and beauty of the family and mercy

Part III   Discussion: pastoral perspectives
Proclaiming the Gospel of the family today, in various contexts
Guiding couples on the path in preparation for marriage
Accompanying the first years of married life
Positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation
Caring for wounded families (separated couples, the divorced whohave not remarried, the divorced and remarried)
Welcoming homosexual persons
The transmission of life and the challenge of declining birthrate
The challenge of education and the role of the family in evangelization

The report concludes:  "The reflections ... are intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer by the reflection of the local Churches in the year that separates us from the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of bishops planned for October 2015."

An English translation of the original Italian language version is here

Monday, October 06, 2014

Red Mass Opens Supreme Court's Term

The Red Mass is held annually at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C.on the day before the Supreme Court's new term,  The Mass invokes God's blessing on justices, judges, diplomats, attorneys and senior government officials and requests the guidance of the Holy Spirit for all who seek justice. The Mass also offers an opportunity to reflect on  the God-given power and responsibility of all those in the legal profession. Originating in Europe during the Middle Ages, The Red Mass is so called from the red vestments traditionally worn to symbolize the tongues of fire that descended on the Apostles at Pentecost.

POLITICO captured Sunday's Red Mass in a series of photos, the first of which is a photo of Bishop Loverde with Chief Justice Roberts on the steps of the Cathedral  at the conclusion of the Mass.

Here is a link to the POLITICO Photo Gallery.




Francis to the Synod Fathers: “Speak clearly, listen with humility, accept with an open heart”

This morning, in the presence of the Holy Father, the First General Congregation of the Synod of Bishops on “Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of new evangelisation” took place in the Synod Hall. The Pope greeted the Synod Fathers and all those “who have worked with dedication, patience and competence, for long months, reading and working on the themes, texts and the work of this Extraordinary General Assembly”.

"Today I also thank you, dear cardinals, patriarchs, bishops, priests, men and women religious and laypersons for your presence and your participation that enriches the works and the spirit of collegiality and synodality for the good of the Church and families. … You bring the voice of the particular Churches, gathered at the level of the local Churches through the Episcopal Conferences. The universal Church and the particular Churches are of divine institution; the local Churches, understood in this way, are of human institution. You will bring this voice in synodality. It is a great responsibility: bring the reality and problems of the Churches to help them to walk the path of the Gospel of the family”.

“A general basic condition is this: speak clearly. Let no one say, 'this can't be said, they will think this or that about me'. Everything we feel must be said, with parrhesia*. After the last Consistory in February 2014, which focused on the family, a Cardinal wrote to me saying that it was a pity that some cardinals did not have the courage to say certain things out of respect for the Pope, thinking perhaps that the Pope thought differently. This is not good – it is not synodality, because it is necessary to say everything that in the Lord we feel must be said: without human respect, without timidness. And, at the same time, we must listen with humility and accept with an open heart all that our brothers say. With these two attitudes, synodality is achieved”.

“Therefore, I ask of you these two attitudes of brothers in the Lord: Speak with parrhesia and listen with humility. And do so with great tranquillity and peace, because the Synod always takes place 'cum Petro et sub Petro', and the presence of the Pope is a guarantee for all and a protection of faith”.

from Vatican Information Service 6 October 2014

* According to wikipedia 
parrhesia is a figure of speech described as: to speak candidly or to ask forgiveness for so speaking.[1] The term is borrowed from the Greek meaning literally "to speak everything" and by extension "to speak freely," "to speak boldly," or "boldness." It implies not only freedom of speech, but the obligation to speak the truth for the common good, even at personal risk.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Cardinal Baldisseri on the Synod on the Family

Vatican City, 3 October 2014 (VIS) – At a press conference this morning, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, outlined the structure of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, to be inaugurated by the Pope during a solemn mass in St. Peter's Basilica next Sunday.

According to Cardinal Baldisseri:

 The upcoming Synod, will reflect the Holy Father's wish to undertake an innovative and original Synodal path, structured in two phases: the current Extraordinary Assembly, on the theme "Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation", and next year's Ordinary Assembly, which will take as its theme "The vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world".

The Cardinal noted that the large number of responses to the questionnaire linked to the preparatory document distributed by the Episcopal Conferences "... is due on the one hand to the theme of the Synod, which regards the life of the community, families and people and reflects the pastoral care that the bishops have always had in relation to the family. On the other hand, the breadth of the material that was submitted is without doubt an indication of the frankness and freeness with which the consultation was carried out. This broad-ranging freedom of expression will also characterise the Synod Assembly, which will certainly take place in an atmosphere of respect for every position, with mutual charity and with a genuinely constructive approach..."

The full text of Cardinal Baldisseri's announcement as reported by Vatican Information Services is here

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Life Chain Sunday, October 5th

Adapted from NAPA Valley Life Chain Poster

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Pope Francis' Prayer Intentions for October


Flicker photos from Vatican Radio


Pope Francis' universal prayer intention for October is:
 “That Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence”.

His intention for evangelization is:
“That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world”.