“Give us your views” says Vatican
You may recall that earlier this year the Bishops met in Rome for an Extraordinary Synod on “Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the context of Evangelisation.” Prior to that meeting, Catholics worldwide were all invited to give input by responding to a questionnaire about issues relating to our faith and family life. In October next year the 2015 Synod will follow on from that meeting. The theme will be “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World.” As Pope Francis said in his concluding address of the 2014 Synod, “now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront….one year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups.”
In line with this, the Vatican has once again asked national Catholic Bishops Conferences all over the world to seek the input of Catholics at “all levels” in preparation for the second meeting of Bishops which will be held in October 2015. The Vatican’s Office for the Synod of Bishops released a document last week which it is sending to Bishop’s conferences around the world. This document contains a summary of the 2014 meeting and a series of forty six questions which are designed to facilitate “in-depth examination of the work initiated” at the last synod meeting. Bishops conferences are being asked to find ways of involving Catholics in the process of dialogue and reflection about the questions which emerged from the 2014 Synod. We are asked to re-think “with renewed freshness and enthusiasm, what revelation, transmitted in the Church’s faith, tells us about the beauty, the role and the dignity of the family.”
The questions that we have been asked to consider include quotes from the 2014 document. There are also quotes from Evangelii Gaudium, Francis’s apostolic exhortation published in 2013, which highlight some of the key emphases of Francis’s papacy including mercy and the reaching out to those on the margins. Questions include one that speaks directly to the issue of mercy: “How can people be helped to understand that no one is beyond the mercy of God and how can this truth be expressed in the Church’s pastoral activity towards families, especially those who are wounded and fragile.” There are questions relating to how people can be assisted to “understand that Christian marriage corresponds to the original plan of God, and thus one of fulfillment and not confinement.” There are questions relating to the churches pastoral care of “persons with homosexual tendencies” and persons living together outside of marriage, amongst many others.
The document sent out last week says that “episcopal conferences have the responsibility to continue to examine thoroughly and seek the involvement in the most opportune manner possible, all levels of the local church, thus providing concrete instances from specific situations.” As Catholics and as laity the Church is asking us to reflect and to give input from our lived experience so that the leading of the Holy Spirit in our time may be discerned. It is up to us to make sure that we take up the responsibility that we have been given and respond when the Bishops invite us for our input.