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SideNote Catholic Podcast: Pope Francis


Before some of the students of University of Prince Edward Island gathered to discuss the Synod on the Family, Daniel Brown of the SideNote Catholic Podcast sat down with Sebastian Gomes and Fr. Thomas Rosica of Salt + Light Media to discuss Pope Francis’ amazing impact on both the Catholic and the secular world.

Listen to full podcast here:


From Synod to Synod Airs on S+L

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On October 2, 2014, Pope Francis said, “A synod means walking together and also praying together.” Three months ago, the Church was given a gift in the form of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. We are very thankful that S+L could be a part of the historical moment in Church. Last year, Fr. Thomas Rosica led a S+L TV production team in Rome to cover the Synod in English, French and Chinese at the Vatican. It was a fruitful experience and a huge blessing for us all.

On January 26, 2015, we experienced yet another fruitful moment. We hosted a special presentation on the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family at St. Michael’s College School. The presentation was led by Fr. Thomas Rosica with three of our producers, Sebastian Gomes (who covered the Synod in English), Charles Le Bourgeois (who did the French coverage) and Rodney Leung (who led our Chinese coverage). The evening was a beautiful time to share our Synod experience with our board members and general public.

The evening kicked off with the premiere of a short S+L video production on the Synod, titled “This is the Synod of Bishops – 2014 Synod Recap.” Check it out below!

After the video premiere, Fr. Rosica gave a short summary of the evening to come and introduced our producers! Each producer then gave a short presentation ranging from 6-15 minutes on their own experience at the Synod. It was quite interesting to hear about all the stuff that happened INSIDE the Synod, stuff that wasn’t usually reported on by the media. And since our three reporters each reported in their own language, we lived three different experiences!

Following the short presentations came the Q&A period of the night. The audience members asked excellent questions on euthanasia and homosexual unions, just to name a few. The whole evening was a huge success! Afterwards, we received many positives remarks and compliments on all the great work our producers did.

(Check out a few photos of the evening at the end of the post!)

The Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was just a preparatory stage for the Synod that is come in October 2015. There is still a long way to go for the Church and for the faithful.

Let us all learn not to judge, but to love and to pray with people and for all people.

Let us also keep Pope Francis, all the cardinals and bishops in our prayers. May the Holy Spirit be with them always and guide them in the upcoming Synod this October.

Lastly, thank you for your prayers and your generous support for us! We will broadcast this special program – “From Synod to Synod” soon. We would love to share this special moment with all of you and your family.

God Bless!

Holy Family of Nazareth, pray for us!


AudienceReception1 Reception NoelTony Emilie BillyTable

Check out our Facebook page for more photos!

From Synod to Synod airs Thursday, February 19, 2015.


Now or never: urgency needed in run-up to Synod 2015


When in October 2013 the Vatican announced the first ever two-stage Synod of Bishops, many in the Catholic Church were hopeful about the possibilities of an in-depth discussion and consultation. After all, a year in between the two Synods is a lot of time, right?

Not necessarily. The Vatican didn’t publish the Lineamenta—a discussion guideline consisting of the final document of the October Synod and a series of questions looking at particular family issues—until over one month after the Synod, on December 9th, 2014. At that time, the Vatican also requested that responses from the Bishops’ conferences on behalf of the local churches be submitted to Rome no later than April 15th.

In Toronto, where Salt and Light is headquartered, Cardinal-Archbishop Thomas Collins invited “a concise response” to the Lineamenta from concerned Catholics with a submission deadline of February 16th. Time is needed, obviously, to organize the responses and send them to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) where the Conference will then need time to organize the responses from around the country.

Though the Archdiocese of Toronto is unique in terms of its size and complexity, we can assume that other dioceses find themselves in the same boat. Suffice it to say, the preparing of the Lineamenta, its wide dissemination and the three-tier organization of material from the local level up to the Vatican quickly turn “one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment,” into only a few weeks of actual discussion and consultation of Catholics in the local churches.

In a sense, no one can be blamed for this. The genuine desire of Pope Francis for real consultation involving the whole Church has been deflated by the reality of a complex bureaucratic system that is characteristic of any global institution. But perhaps a greater focus could be on the discussion and consultation rather than the organization of the material.

There are other challenges, including creating for people a “protected space so that the Holy Spirit may speak,” as the Pope likes to say about the Synods. In other words, conducting an effective and in-depth discussion/reflection even at the parish level is no walk in the park—many parishes have never done that. Considering these limitations, it would be easier to do nothing. But that cannot be the response of Catholics at an historic moment like this. In his landmark document on evangelization today, Pope Francis wrote:

“Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: “We have always done it this way.” I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 33)

There are two key points to be made here: first, the emphasis on thinking outside of the box. It’s clear; an attitude towards the Synod and this consultation of the People of God which reflects the status quo at the parish or diocesan level is not acceptable. Second, the link between this consultation and evangelization. The Pope is speaking about “pastoral ministry in a missionary key,” which we may not naturally attribute to a Synod consultation. But a process like this is as much about evangelizing ourselves—changing the way we think about being church—as it is about sharing our experiences of family life today.

All of this to speak a word of encouragement to Catholics participating in—or thinking of starting—a conversation around the Synod document at their parish, school or other community. The challenges are many and the timeline is short, but this is also a learning process for every community; “synod” literally means “journeying together.” “Even a bad shot is dignified when one accepts a duel,” as Chesterton wrote. Rest assured, if you consider the direction in which the Church is going, it won’t be the last consultation.  When the reality suggests we’re nowhere close to perfecting the process, practice is exactly what is needed.  Even if deadlines are missed.

The Pope has said clearly that there are only three authoritative documents to consider during this church-wide consultation: The Lineamenta, the Message to the People of God and the Pope’s final address to the Synod Fathers on October 18th. For those who wish to go a bit deeper, S+L provides you with a complete list of related documents on the Synod of Bishops on the Family:

Important texts for discussion/reflection on the Synod of Bishops on the Family


1) Lineamenta (Dec. 2014)

2) Message to the People of God (Oct. 2014)

3) Pope Francis’ final address to the Synod (Oct. 2014)


4) Pope Francis’ homily during the concluding Mass of the Synod (Oct. 2014)

5) Midterm report (Oct. 2014)

6) Pope Francis’ opening address to the Synod (Oct. 2014)

7) Pope Francis’ homily during the opening Mass of the Synod (Oct. 2014)

8) Pope Francis’ homily during the prayer vigil for the Synod (Oct. 2014)

9) Instrumentum Laboris for the Extraordinary Synod (June 2014)

10) Cardinal Kasper addresses consistory (Feb. 2014)

11) Pope Francis’ letter to families (Feb. 2014)

A Personal Experience of a Synod Father


Corriveau John 1By Most Reverend John Corriveau, OFM Cap.
Bishop of Nelson, British Columbia

Between 1994 and 2012, I was privileged to participate in five Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops. These five Synods touched a variety of challenges in the Church: Consecrated Life and its Role in the Church and the World (1994), Special Assembly for America (1997), Special Assembly for Oceania (1998), The Eucharist, Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church (2005), and The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith (2012).

Synods were inaugurated by Pope Paul VI to give continuing expression to the collegial nature of the leadership and governance of the Church. This was certainly my experience. At four of these five Synods I was not yet a Bishop and I was inevitably perched high up in the corner of the Synod Hall where I could survey in the delegates the very face of humanity gathered from every corner of the earth. It was a graced moment for me to experience in this diversity the palpable unity and the vibrancy spoken of in Acts of the Apostles: “in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power” (Acts 2:11). Pope Paul VI also saw the Synod as a privileged instrument to continue the reforming spirit of Vatican Council II. Vatican II initiated the most profound reconsideration of the identity of Church since the Council of Trent: “The universal Church is seen to be a people brought into unity from the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (LG, 4). The theology of communion was a strong thread which wove through all of the Synods. The Synods began to enunciate for me the Trinitarian source of the communion of the Church emphasizing that communion is not simply the sociological result of faith, but a constitutive element of faith itself. To be Church is to be drawn into the dynamic, creative relationship of the love of the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.


There is a two-fold newness to the Synod on the Family convoked by Pope Francis, namely, its strong pastoral emphasis and its methodology. Church teaching on marriage and the family is already well-established and we do not need another Synod to describe it. Pope Francis has challenged the Church to bring this teaching to bear upon the concrete situation of families in our world today. Pope Francis has also broken new ground by involving the entire Church in this Synod experience. The Family Questionnaire which is being discussed throughout the world, including Canada, utilizes a see – judge – act model of enquiry. We are asked to enunciate the actual situation of family life in Canada today, to judge this reality in the light of the gospel of joy and mercy and to propose directives for the future. As the Church gathered in small groups, we give expression to the faith-experience of all Catholics as we chart our way toward the future.

The convocation of the Synod of Bishops to address The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World has provoked both hope and concern within the Church and intense interest in our wider society. My experiences cause hope to trump concern and fear in my heart! Why? Not because I am unaware of the intense challenges facing the family in our highly secularized society, nor because I take lightly the task of safeguarding the sanctity of Christian marriage, nor I hope, am I unmoved by the pain experienced by those who have experienced marriage-breakdown. Hope trumps concern because the Synod is first and foremost an experience of the unifying power of the Holy Spirit. The Bishops gathered in Synod are very conscious that they gather as the successors of the Apostles and are charged with safeguarding the faith which has been handed down to us and to continually discover its richness and relevance for the people of God in every age and place. The Bishops bear a special responsibility for the unity of the Church.  Through this Synod the family is being summoned to an encounter with Jesus alive in his gospel of mercy and hope and in the Eucharistic community gathered to celebrate his passion, death and resurrection. Pope Francis tells us the result of such an encounter: “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus” (EG,1).


From Synod to Synod: Special Invitation


The recent extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization” will be remembered as a milestone in the history of the Church. At this world gathering of Catholic Church leaders Synod, Pope Francis invited the universal Church to journey together and reflect on the joys and hopes, dark moments and light moments of what it means to be family today.

Salt and Light Catholic Television Network played a lead role in documenting this synod on a daily basis. Our own CEO, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, served as the English language Vatican spokesperson for the Synod. Three of our young producers, Sebastian Gomes, Charles LeBourgeois and Rodney Leung were inside the Synod and did the daily interviews and video summaries for television networks around the world.

Pope Francis has asked dioceses around the world to share the story of the Synod and carefully study the final document of this Extraordinary Synod, which now serves as the working document for the major Synod on the Family that will take place between October 4-25, 2015 .

I would like to invite you to a special event on the Synod, on Monday, January 26, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. in the theater of St. Michael’s College School, 1515 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario. Parking is available behind the school.

As chair of Salt and Light Catholic Television Network and on behalf of our Board of Directors, we are honored to offer presentations by Fr. Thomas Rosica and producer Sebastian Gomes to share with us the findings of the recent Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, present the working document for next year’s Synod and consider the new directions and vision of Pope Francis for the Church. We will also have the opportunity to view some of the key filmed moments of the past Synod of Bishops prepared by Salt and Light Television. A reception will follow the 90-minute presentation.

For more information, contact Sandy Vieira-Gallo at sandy.vieira@stjoseph.com or 905-660-3111, ext 328.

We hope you can join us for a true behind-the-scenes rare opportunity to explore this milestone for the Catholic Church.

Yours truly,

Tony Gagliano
Executive Chairman & CEO, St. Joseph Communications
Chair, S+L Catholic Television Network

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, delivers Christian Culture Lecture in Windsor on the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops


On Sunday, November 23, 2014, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, delivered a lecture on the topic: “What really happened at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops” in the Christian Culture Lecture Series at Windsor’s Assumption University. It was the first in a series of this year’s theme “The Call to Holiness.” The lecture took place in St. Paul’s Church in LaSalle, Ontario, just outside of Windsor. Salt and Light Television filmed the lecture which will air on our network early in 2015.


Excerpt from Fr. Rosica’s lecture:

The recent extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme ‘Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization,’ will be remembered as a milestone in the history of the church. Blessed Paul VI shared this vision and established in Rome ‘a permanent council of bishops for the universal church,’ called ‘the Synod of Bishops’ on September 15, 1965. Many say that the October 2014 assembly was the first time since Blessed Paul VI established this organ of collegiality that the assembly functioned as a synod and not a staged gathering of pseudo-concord.

You may have heard or read that this Synod has been about changing the teaching of the Church on marriage, family life or sexual morality. This is not true! It was about the pastoral care that we try to offer each other, the ‘motherly love of the Church’, especially when facing difficult moments and experiences in family life.

You may have heard that the Synod represented a ‘defeat for Pope Francis’ or that he was disappointed at its outcome. This is not true! At the Synod, Pope Francis invited the universal Church to journey together as we reflected on the joys and hopes, dark moments and light moments of what it means to be family today.  It is a very complicated journey that involves everyone in the Church, and that requires a profound, systematic reflection on the pastoral and dogmatic issues. At the end of our two intense weeks together, Pope Francis spoke at length about his joy and satisfaction at its work. He told us to look deeply into our hearts to see how God had touched us during the Synod, and to see how we may have been tempted away from the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The Synod, he insisted, has been a spiritual journey, not a debating chamber.

In his opening address to all of us in the Synod hall on Monday morning, October 6, Pope Francis shared these words with us: “After the last Consistory (February 2014), in which there was discussion on the family, a Cardinal wrote to me saying: too bad that some Cardinals didn’t have the courage to say some things out of respect for the Pope, thinking, perhaps, that the Pope thought something different. This is not good; this is not Synodality, because it is necessary to say everything that one feels should be said in the Lord, without a merely human respect, without fear. And, at the same time, one must listen with humility and welcome with an open heart what the brothers say. With these two attitudes one practices Synodality. And so I ask you, please, to observe these fraternal attitudes in the Lord: to speak with parresia and to listen with humility.”

“It has been a great experience, in which we have lived synodality and collegiality, and felt the power of the Holy Spirit, who constantly guides and renews the church,” Pope Francis said in his homily on Sunday Oct. 19, as he closed that assembly and beatified Paul VI.


“We Must Foster a New Human Ecology” – Pope Francis


Below you will find the English language translation of the Holy Father’s address in Italian, delivered this morning at the Colloquium on the complementarity of Man and Woman at the Vatican.

Dear sisters and brothers,

I warmly greet you. I thank Cardinal Muller for his words with which he introduced our meeting. I would like to begin by sharing with you a reflection on the title of your colloquium.  You must admit that “complementarity” does not roll lightly off the tongue!  Yet it is a word into which many meanings are compressed. It refers to situations where one of two things adds to, completes, or fulfills a lack in the other. But complementarity is much more than that. Yet complementarity is more than this.

Christians find its deepest meaning in the first Letter to the Corinthians where Saint Paul tells us that the Spirit has endowed each of us with different gifts so that-just as the human body’s members work together for the good of the whole-everyone’s gifts can work together for the benefit of each. (cf. 1 Cor. 12).  To reflect upon “complementarity” is nothing less than to ponder the dynamic harmonies at the heart of all Creation. This is a big word, harmony. All complementarities were made by our Creator, so the Author of harmony achieves this harmony.

It is fitting that you have gathered here in this international colloquium to explore the complementarity of man and woman. This complementarity is a root of marriage and family. For the family grounded in marriage is the first school where we learn to appreciate our own and others’ gifts, and where we begin to acquire the arts of cooperative living. For most of us, the family provides the principal place where we can aspire to greatness as we strive to realize our full capacity for virtue and charity. At the same time, as we know, families give rise to tensions: between egoism and altruism, reason and passion, immediate desires and long-range goals. But families also provide frameworks for resolving such tensions. This is important. When we speak of complementarity between man and woman in this context, let us not confuse that term with the simplistic idea that all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern. Complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children — his or her personal richness, personal charisma. Complementarity becomes a great wealth. It is not just a good thing but it is also beautiful.

We know that today marriage and the family are in crisis. We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

Evidence is mounting that the decline of the marriage culture is associated with increased poverty and a host of other social ills, disproportionately affecting women, children and the elderly. It is always they who suffer the most in this crisis.

The crisis in the family has produced an ecological crisis, for social environments, like natural environments, need protection. And although the human race has come to understand the need to address conditions that menace our natural environments, we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in our Catholic Church. It is therefore essential that we foster a new human ecology.

It is necessary first to promote the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods.  The family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation.  Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity. That is why I stressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that the contribution of marriage to society is “indispensable”; that it “transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.” (n. 66)  And that is why I am grateful to you for your Colloquium’s emphasis on the benefits that marriage can provide to children, the spouses themselves, and to society.

In these days, as you embark on a reflection on the beauty of complementarity between man and woman in marriage, I urge you to lift up yet another truth about marriage: that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart.  I urge you to bear in mind especially the young people, who represent our future. Commit yourselves, so that our youth do not give themselves over to the poisonous environment of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern.

Do not fall into the trap of being swayed by political notion. Family is an anthropological fact – a socially and culturally related fact. We cannot qualify it based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history. We can’t think of conservative or progressive notions. Family is a family. It can’t be qualified by ideological notions. Family is per se. It is a strength per se.

I pray that your colloquium will be an inspiration to all who seek to support and strengthen the union of man and woman in marriage as a unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for persons, communities, and whole societies.

I wish to confirm according to the wishes of the Lord, that in September of 2015, I will go to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. Thank you for your prayers with which you accompany my service to the Church. Bless you from my heart.

Archbishop John Dew reflects on being part of the Synod on Marriage and the Family

Dew Archbishop John

Archbishop John Dew of New Zealand offers a reflection about his experience in the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. See below for full reflection:

As I return from the Synod on Marriage and the Family I’m aware that the gathering, the discussion and the topics have caught the attention of the secular media and Catholic media have followed it closely. I understand that many New Zealanders have followed the discussion with hopefulness and enthusiasm.

Shortly after Pope Francis announced that he would be calling for a Synod on marriage and the family the preparatory document was released with a set of questions relating to the wide range of topics that would fall under this heading for Bishops Conferences from each country to respond to in their submission and to form the working document of the Synod. The New Zealand Bishops chose to make these questions available online to ensure wider consultation that is normally able to be conducted.

It gave people from all walks of life, different vocations and backgrounds the opportunity to anonymously and in their own words share their own insights on these topics which are so important to all of us. More than 2,000 people responded here in New Zealand. Many shared deeply personal experiences, they shared stories of joy, of love and care, of judgement and exclusion and feelings of hope for our Church. We were moved and sincerely grateful for the insights people shared.

The themes that emerged from the responses formed the New Zealand Bishops submission and for me as the New Zealand representative I carried them with me to the Synod gathering in Rome.

In the days before leaving for Rome I was astounded at the emails, letters and messages that were sent to me, offering prayerful support to me and the Synod participants and expressing hope and enthusiasm that this discussion was taking place. This hasn’t happened before previous Synods but because it is about the family and issues people are deeply concerned about it was clear to me how important this was for people.

To open the Synod, Pope Francis called on all of us present to not be afraid to speak boldly and honestly, to listen with open hearts, not to leave things unsaid, to speak with peace and calm and to trust always that the Spirit of God is with us and that it is the Church of Jesus Christ, not ours.

The days began with a time for prayer and reflection and the discussion would begin with a presentation from a married couple who were participants in the Synod. From there, Cardinals and Bishops took turns to give their “interventions”. My own intervention on behalf of the New Zealand Church focussed on the need for Church language to be changed so that it gave people hope and encouragement. To find a language that speaks the truth of the gospel but in a way that doesn’t make them simply sanctions but draws people to God. Terms like intrinsically evil, or irregular situations don’t encourage people to see God present in their lives. We can then propose what we believe the gospel and the Church is calling us to as an invitation and a calling not an imposition.

There was quite a lot of discussion on graduality. At times this was misunderstood, with some bishops thinking that others were speaking about “graduality of doctrine of faith and morals,” while what they were speaking about was that we grow gradually, we go through stages of moral growth. It recognises that none of us are perfect but we’re all on a journey so what are we doing to help (or hinder) others on that journey who are often in very difficult and complex family situations.

The other interventions talked about communion for the divorced and remarried, the impact severe poverty has on families particularly as parents need to go abroad in order to be able to provide for the family which separates them. Many bishops spoke at length about homosexuality. The very fact that this topic was being discussed so openly is a change from previous discussions. They were genuinley trying to find a way to recognise those who live a homosexual lifestyle, but were on no way comparing such a union to Christian marriage.

While there was a sense of hope and excitement and positivity in the Synod Hall and probably by those following the discussions from a distance, this is only the beginning of the process. We’re not sure yet what will happen, this time we’re not asked to vote on propositions and we need to remember that things will not change overnight. However Pope Francis has announced a commission to look at simplifying the annulment process and there may be other areas that will need to be looked at as well in the next year before the Synod reconvenes.

Change in the Church can seem slow at times, but what has been clear is that this discussion is about people’s lives and people are hurting, and if the Church is to be a mother that consoles, encourages, reaches out and supports, it must listen to what is emerging from the discussion.

We can all have hope that questions have been raised and talked about in depth and at length with openness and readiness.

The very last presentation in the Synod Hall, before the closing Mass on the Sunday morning, was Pope Francis speaking. His words were welcomed with a five minute standing ovation and all – almost all, were saying that his words were the highlight of the Synod. I highly recommend people reading his speech at the end of the Synod, it is available online and I know I will be meditating on it for a long time to come.

My experience of the Synod is one of active collegiality. At the closing Mass of the Synod Pope Francis beatified Pope Paul VI. Fifty years ago Pope Paul VI talked about the need for collegiality in the Church at a time of great hope and change in the Church. And when Pope Francis was elected some of his first words to the world were that the Cardinals had gone to the ends of the earth to elect a bishop of Rome and he is, and during this Synod he has been, a bishop among brothers. Fifty years on we as a Church have got a lot to thank Pope Paul VI.

The text of Pope Francis’ final address to the Synod is available in full here.

You can read the daily blog posts from Archbishop John Dew that were posted throughout the Synod.

Pope’s ecumenism said to come from friendships, bridge-building


By Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service
November 10, 2014

BALTIMORE (CNS) — Four of the daily homilies of Pope Francis over the 19 months of his pontificate in particular help explain the direction he has taken in ecumenism and interreligious efforts, said a priest who has served as a Vatican spokesman during events including the recent extraordinary Synod of Bishops.

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, a U.S. priest who also is CEO of Salt and Light Television, Canada’s national Catholic network, said in a Nov. 9 workshop for bishops before their annual fall general assembly that Pope Francis’ daily Mass homilies and his 2013 apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), give context to his approach.

In Argentina, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio had a rabbi among his close friends and friendships with evangelicals and Pentecostals, who have participated in events at the Vatican since he became pope.

As pope, he has also reached out to other Christians, Jews and Orthodox in ways that have captivated many non-Catholics, who pore over the details of Francis’ writings and relish activities such as his Holy Thursday visit to an Italian prison to wash the feet of inmates of diverse faiths, said Father Rosica.

He said he mentioned to Pope Francis recently that people the world over are reading “Evangelii Gaudium,” as Father Rosica has discovered from the many invitations he receives to speak on the topic.

“I said to the pope, ‘Do you realize what you’re doing?’ The pope replied, ‘I think so.'”

“Building bridges is the work of ecumenism, of evangelization,” said Father Rosica. “It’s the work of going out to the whole world to proclaim the good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ. Building walls is what fearful, insecure people do to protect what they have and keep others out.

“Pope Francis wants to build bridges that everyone can cross,” he said, especially the poor, those who have been marginalized and social outcasts.

“In ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ Pope Francis invites — and challenges — all of us to move beyond our ‘comfort zones,'” Father Rosica said. “He wants us to be warm, welcoming and forgiving. He wants us to eat with tax collectors and sinners; he wants us to forgive the woman caught in adultery (while admonishing her to sin no more); he wants us to welcome and respect foreigners (even our enemies), and, above all, not to judge others.”

There’s nothing new in any of that, said the priest. “It is only the Gospel message. It’s been our mission, our mandate and our story for over 2,000 years.”


The four homilies Father Rosica cited date from one a month after his election as pope to as recently as Nov. 4.

In the first, he discussed the “courageous attitude of St. Paul in Areopagus, when, in speaking to the Athenian crowd, the Apostle to the Gentiles sought to build bridges to proclaim the Gospel.” The pope said an attitude such as Paul’s that seeks dialogue is “closer to the heart” of the listener and why Paul was a builder of bridges, not of walls.

Last October, Father Rosica said, Pope Francis warned Christians against behaving as though “the key is in their pocket and the door is closed.” He talked about Christians who have the key to the church in their hand but “take it away without opening the door.” People who may wish to enter find themselves on the street in front of a closed church, with excuses and justifications given for why they cannot enter, the pope said.

“Worse still,” said Father Rosica, citing the pope, they keep the door closed, don’t allow anyone to enter and in doing so, keep on the outside themselves. “When this Christian is a priest, a bishop or a pope it is worse,” said Francis.

The situation arises when “the faith passes, so to speak through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon people.”

“When a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith, he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought.” Father Rosica said the pope went on to say that when faith becomes ideology, it chases away people and distances the church from the people.

Father Rosica also quoted from an October homily this year, in which the pope spoke about unity in diversity. He used the image of a church made of living stones, as opposed to weak bricks.

“Humility, gentleness, magnanimity: These are weak things, because the humble person appears good for nothing; gentleness, meekness appear useless; generosity, being open to all, having a big heart,” Father Rosica quoted. “And then he says more: Bearing with one another through love. Bearing with one another through love, having what at heart? Preserving unity. The weaker we are with these virtues of humility, generosity, gentleness, meekness, the stronger we become as stones in this temple.”

The fourth key homily, according to Father Rosica, was the pope’s Nov. 4 teaching on the parable of the man who gave a banquet to which he invited many, but some declined.

As Pope Francis noted, Father Rosica said, “In the end the invited guests prefer their own interests rather than sharing dinner together: They do not know what it means to celebrate.”

He said that form of self-interest makes it difficult to listen to the voice of God, “when you believe that that the whole world revolves around you: there is no horizon, because you become your own horizon. And there is more behind all of this, something far deeper: fear of gratuity. We are afraid of God’s gratuity. He is so great that we fear him.”

Pope Francis’ Homily During Synod Opening Mass


On October 5, 2014, Pope Francis presided over the Opening Mass for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. Below you will find the full text of his address:

Today the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel employ the image of the Lord’s vineyard.  The Lord’s vineyard is his “dream”, the plan which he nurtures with all his love, like a farmer who cares for his vineyard.  Vines are plants which need much care!

God’s “dream” is his people.  He planted it and nurtured it with patient and faithful love, so that it can become a holy people, a people which brings forth abundant fruits of justice.

But in both the ancient prophecy and in Jesus’ parable, God’s dream is thwarted.  Isaiah says that the vine which he so loved and nurtured has yielded “wild grapes” (5:2,4); God “expected justice but saw bloodshed, righteousness, but only a cry of distress” (v. 7).  In the Gospel, it is the farmers themselves who ruin the Lord’s plan: they fail to do their job but think only of their own interests.

In Jesus’ parable, he is addressing the chief priests and the elders of the people, in other words the “experts”, the managers.  To them in a particular way God entrusted his “dream”, his people, for them to nurture, tend and protect from the animals of the field. This is the job of leaders: to nuture the vineyard with freedom, creativity and hard work.

But Jesus tells us that those farmers took over the vineyard.  Out of greed and pride they want to do with it as they will, and so they prevent God from realizing his dream for the people he has chosen.

The temptation to greed is ever present.  We encounter it also in the great prophecy of Ezekiel on the shepherds (cf. ch. 34), which Saint Augustine commented upon in one his celebrated sermons which we have just reread in the Liturgy of the Hours.  Greed for money and power.  And to satisfy this greed, evil pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move (cf. Mt 23:4)

We too, in the Synod of Bishops, are called to work for the Lord’s vineyard.  Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent…  They are meant to better nuture and tend the Lord’s vineyard, to help realize his dream, his loving plan for his people.  In this case the Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity.

We are all sinners and can also be tempted to “take over” the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings.  God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants.  We can “thwart” God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit gives us that wisdom which surpasses knowledge, and enables us to work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity.

My Synod brothers, to do a good job of nurturing and tending the vineyard, our hearts and our minds must be kept in Jesus Christ by “the peace of God which passes all understanding” (Phil 4:7).  In this way our thoughts and plans will correspond to God’s dream: to form a holy people who are his own and produce the fruits of the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 21:43).