Pope Francis’ Closing Remarks at Synod of Bishops

FrancisClosingRemarks

At the end of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, Pope Francis addressed the Synod Fathers and everyone involved with the Synod. Below is the full text of the Holy Father’s remarks.

Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,

With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.

From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.

I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!

I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other 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 the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

– The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

– The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

– The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

– The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, 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 people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The 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 which is 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. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious 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.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro(with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of  their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it 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, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it… 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 (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and 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’ (cf. 123, 5); 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 (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

So, 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 – the “servant of the servants of God”; 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, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, 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; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.

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. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!

This text was originally published on Vatican Radio.

A Message to the People of God

SynodFathers

The Synod Fathers released a short pastoral letter at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishop on the Family on Sunday, October 19, 2014.

We, Synod Fathers, gathered in Rome together with Pope Francis in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, greet all families of the different continents and in particular all who follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We admire and are grateful for the daily witness which you offer us and the world with your fidelity, faith, hope, and love.

Each of us, pastors of the Church, grew up in a family, and we come from a great variety of backgrounds and experiences. As priests and bishops we have lived alongside families who have spoken to us and shown us the saga of their joys and their difficulties.

The preparation for this synod assembly, beginning with the questionnaire sent to the Churches around the world, has given us the opportunity to listen to the experience of many families. Our dialogue during the Synod has been mutually enriching, helping us to look at the complex situations which face families today.

We offer you the words of Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20). On his journeys along the roads of the Holy Land, Jesus would enter village houses. He continues to pass even today along the streets of our cities. In your homes there are light and shadow. Challenges often present themselves and at times even great trials. The darkness can grow deep to the point of becoming a dense shadow when evil and sin work into the heart of the family.

We recognize the great challenge to remain faithful in conjugal love. Enfeebled faith and indifference to true values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and stress that excludes reflection leave their mark on family life. There are often crises in marriage, often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another. Failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic, where the Christian choice is not obvious.

We think also of the burden imposed by life in the suffering that can arise with a child with special needs, with grave illness, in deterioration of old age, or in the death of a loved one. We admire the fidelity of so many families who endure these trials with courage, faith, and love. They see them not as a burden inflicted on them, but as something in which they themselves give, seeing the suffering Christ in the weakness of the flesh.

We recall the difficulties caused by economic systems, by the “the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” (Evangelii gaudium 55) which weakens the dignity of people. We remember unemployed parents who are powerless to provide basic needs for their families, and youth who see before them days of empty expectation, who are prey to drugs and crime.

We think of so many poor families, of those who cling to boats in order to reach a shore of survival, of refugees wandering without hope in the desert, of those persecuted because of their faith and the human and spiritual values which they hold. These are stricken by the brutality of war and oppression. We remember the women who suffer violence and exploitation, victims of human trafficking, children abused by those who ought to have protected them and fostered their development, and the members of so many families who have been degraded and burdened with difficulties. “The culture of prosperity deadens us…. all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us” (Evangelii gaudium 54). We call on governments and international organizations to promote the rights of the family for the common good.

Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone. We warmly thank our pastors, lay faithful, and communities who accompany couples and families and care for their wounds.

[Read more...]

The Journey Continues… Fr. Rosica Reflects on Extraordinary Synod on the Family

TomFrancis

Pope Francis, Fr. Thomas Rosica and Cardinal Wuerl

Note: Fr. Thomas Rosica also serves as the English language assistant to the Holy See Press Office at the Vatican and served as English language spokesperson at the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome. He sent out the following message to English language media today.

Thanks to all of you who took such interest in the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops and provided media coverage in different ways: print, electronic, television and radio.  I did my best to try to respond to your many requests over the past three weeks. I appreciated very much the sensitivity and understanding you demonstrated in your coverage.  I would simply like to remind you of some things I wrote over the past month regarding the Synod of Bishops.

1) This was a unique experience of a Synod in that it was extraordinary – a preparatory synod – for the major one that will take place next October also on the theme of the family. Therefore the process begun last fall with the questionnaire, followed by the past two weeks of Synod, continuing through the World Meeting of Families next September in Philadelphia and culminating in the 2015 Synod, offers the church many opportunities for deepening the reflections and thoughts that were shared over the past months. This Synod and its documents are works in progress. We have only just begun the process of synod: walking together.

2) One of the great gifts of the Second Vatican Council was the establishment of the Synod of Bishops 49 years ago.  After 4 years of intense debate, hard work and newly formed friendships, solidarities and rich collaboration, the Fathers (participants) in Vatican II expressed their strong desire to then-Pope Paul VI (now Blessed Paul VI) to found the Synod of Bishops that would allow the teachings, spirit and dynamism of the Council to continue. In the normal course of history, the Synodal structure grew tired and lost some of its original dynamism.  Pope Francis, building on the foundation of his predecessors, desired to reawaken the Synodal structure and allow it to deepen its roots in the Conciliar experience and spread its wings to lead the Church forward on her journey. Using the rich imagery of Pope Francis, I would like to think that the recent Extraordinary Synod was a golden opportunity to take the Synodal structure out of the Intensive Care Unit (some thought it was Palliative Care) of the great Field Hospital of the Church and return it to the General patient wing of the Field Hospital we call Church!

3) The lenses through which we can best understand what just took place in Rome are the masterful texts of Pope Francis: his homily at the opening mass of the Synod on October 5, his opening address to the Synodal Assembly on Monday October 6, his amazing concluding address to the Synod on Saturday October 18 and the very moving homily at the Synod’s concluding mass on Sunday, October 19, 2014.

4) Rather than be overly concerned with the smaller picture of normal, synodal intrigues, details and minutiae that are part and parcel of any gathering when human beings (especially Church people!) come together, I encourage you to take the wide angle view of what has just transpired at the Vatican, and what will continue to take place around the world as the Synod Fathers and participants bring home their documents, stories, hopes, dreams, frustrations and desires for the Church and for the world.

5) The Synodal adventure and drama continues and offers to the entire world a great story.  It is a work in progress. Thank you for helping us to tell the story, and even better, to become part of it.  What has taken place here in Rome these past weeks not only relates to Catholic Christians, but to all men and women of good will who seek to leave the world a better place, and who recognize that the future of humanity passes through the family, in all that family means for us today.

synodhall

Allow me conclude by quoting from Pope Francis’ homily at yesterday’s mass of Beatification for Pope Paul VI, the author of the Synod of Bishops:

“On this day of the Beatification of Pope Paul VI, I think of the words with which he established the Synod of Bishops:by carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society (Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Apostolica Sollicitudo).”

 

Inside the Synod: Lay members share hope and vision for renewing family life

heinzen

The Salt + Light team in Rome spoke with lay couple Jeff and Alice Heinzen from the Office of Marriage and Family Life and Natural Family Planning in the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA. Jeff and Alice share their hope and vision for renewing family life.

Archbishop Dew: Let’s look for language that encourages people

dew

The Salt + Light team in Rome spoke w/ Archbishop John Dew of Wellington, New Zealand. Archbishop Dew shares the message he brings to #synod14.

Bishop Mendis of Sri Lanka: Marriage and family life are very important

mendis

The Salt + Light team in Rome spoke with Bishop Warnakulasurya V. Mendis of Chilaw, Sri Lanka. Bishop Mendis offers his thoughts on #synod14 and addresses the issue of remarried and divorced Catholics.

Archbishop Hardjoatmodjo addresses challenges in Indonesian Church

abpJakarta

The Salt + Light team in Rome spoke with Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, Indonesia. Archbishop Hardjoatmodjo comments on his thoughts of #synod14 and addresses challenges he faces in his archdiocese.

Archbishop Hung encourages priests to preach more about family in homilies.

abptaipei

The S+L team in Rome spoke with Archbishop John Hung Shan-Chuan, SVD of Taipei. Archbishop Hung addresses the challenges the church in Taipei faces and comments on married life in Taiwan.

Inside the Synod (Day 9) – completion of small group discussions

Tonight on Inside the Synod – Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila share their experiences and provide context as bishops prepare the final summary document for the Synod on the Family.

Archbishop Kurtz: Their authentic witness is captivating

kurtz

The Salt + Light team in Rome spoke with Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, USA. Archbishop Kurtz comments on the lay members of the synod and addresses his plan once he returns from #synod14.