Monday, October 20, 2014

Pope Francis at the conclusion of the Synod

2014-10-19 Vatican Radio
(Vatican Radio) At the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Pope Francis addressed the assembled Fathers, thanking them for their efforts and encouraging them tocontinue to journey. 
Below, please find Vatican Radio's provisional translation of Pope Francis' address to the Synod Fathers: 
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 thesymptoms 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!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Only in the Turn to Person as Subject and Self-Gift, Can Truth and Love be One

Is truth love? No, when the self is an individual substance, truth, the conformity of intelligence with the sensibly perceived world, intelligence being an accident-faculty of that substance, and love the operation of the accident-faculty of the will.

Can truth and love be one? Yes,  1) when truth is the experience of the self imaging the Truth as Second Person of the Trinity, and 2) love is the experience of the self going out of itself to God and others. And so, truth is love only when the self (in the epistemological turn to the "I") experiences itself going out of itself.

The "No" results from the post-Tridentene neo-scholasticism dominated by a conceptual/objectivist epistemology. The "Yes"is the anthropology of Vatican II as found in Gaudium et spes #24: “man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds itself by the sincere gift of self.” Only in this second perspective will the meaning of truth and love be identical, i.e. the self as both truth and love as in Christ, the prototype of man. 

In the concrete, say, in the case of the relation to the homosexual person and gay marriage, one must love the person with same sex inclination, and in truth qualify the same-sex tendency as “objectively disordered” as well as reject its accomplished act as contrary to the meaning of the human person. That is, in the very act of loving the homosexually oriented person, you must help him struggle against the same-sex tendency as counter-personal. It violates the very meaning of an enfleshed person. Only by loving him/her as person can you struggle to help him/her make the gift of self; and vice versa, only by helping them to struggle, do you love them. Love and truth become one reality and one act only by moving into the anthropology of the subject who finds himself by – exercising the self-mastery of the Cross of Christ – making the gift of self. Gift of self is both truth and love. The disorder in the act consists in its self-referentiality since there cannot be donation (male) without reception (female) since the bodies of male and female are the very language of their persons as giftedness. This was the burden of the whole of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (TOB). In fact, this theological epistemology is what is meant by the " new evangelization."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What Should the October Synod Discuss? Cormac Burke

…I must say that we are blinking at reality if we do not face up to the fact that since the 1950s, marriage and the family, outside and inside the Church, have been plunged into an ever-growing crisis—to the extent that their nature, and very existence, are threatened by total collapse.

Judging by the media reports on the Extraordinary Synod to be held in Rome this October, the bishops present will be mainly concerned with issues such as the admission to the Eucharist of divorced and remarried persons, the speeding up of annulment processes, and the possible revision of the Church’s teaching on contraception. Implicit in most of the reports is the view that a liberalization or “relaxation” of the Church’s present discipline in these matters could help to ameliorate the pastoral problem or concern that the Synod is called to examine. What could be said about this view?
First, it must be remembered that the Synod is on the Family, not on Marriage. Certainly the health of the family depends on the health of marriage; hence the two questions are intimately connected. Yet, if the topics so highlighted by the media are discussed, then it should be in the light of their relevance to the health of the family itself.
From this latter point of view, divorce, annulments, and contraception certainly have their impact on the quality of family life. But surely it is a negative impact, not a positive one? Hence, proposals to make them more “available” or more “acceptable” would seem to runclear counter to the presumed purpose of the Synod.
What in fact is this purpose? Why has the Synod been convoked? The recent Instrumentum Laboris expresses it in its opening paragraph: “to bring about a new springtime for the family.” While this is suggestive (implying also that the family is going through a winter), it is not too concrete. Let us go directly then to Pope Francis himself, who can certainly tell us what is central in his concerns about the family and, therefore, what he wants the Synod to discuss.
The media might have taken more notice of a letter of his of February 2, 2014, the Feast of the Presentation, addressed directly to Christian families themselves. There, along with requesting prayers for the Synod, he expresses his mind about the role of the family, and the dangers which threaten it today, in a very condensed but beautiful manner.
It is certainly no accident that Francis chose to date this brief letter on February 2. On the contrary, the Pope uses the Gospel of the feast to show how the family can make generations more united, overcome individual self-centeredness, and bring joy to itself and the world. He first dwells on how the presentation of Jesus brings together two old people, Simeon and Anna, and two young people, Mary and Joseph. “It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations!” And then, “He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self‑absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support … Nevertheless, if there is no love, then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. …”
This is very positive. It presents an ideal. But it also communicates the underlying concerns of the Pope regarding the family, and the recommendations regarding them that he hopes to receive from the synodal debates. To understand this, it should be enough to ask ourselves a few questions.
Are Christian families today united in themselves, and with others? Do they help their members out of self-absorption? Do they give an example to those around them of generous and dedicated love? There is the ideal of the Christian family; there is the role it is meant to play in the new evangelization of the world. And, yet, it seems that a great majority of Christian families today do not sense the greatness of their ideal, and do not know how to live it, or are not motivated enough to engage in their privileged evangelizing role. If so, then this must surely suggest the main topics that the Synod of this year, and that of 2015, should address.
The Lost Concept of “Family”
My almost 60 years as a priest have been particularly involved in the consideration of marriage and the family from many points of view: theological, moral, juridical, and pastoral. While not pessimistic by nature, I must say that we are blinking at reality if we do not face up to the fact that since the 1950s, marriage and the family, outside and inside the Church, have been plunged into an ever-growing crisis—to the extent that their nature, and very existence, are threatened by total collapse.
If I had to sum up the causes of this crisis in one factor, it would be this: marriage is no longer approached as a family enterprise. It has become basically a “you-and-me” affair. It is essentially a (tentative) commitment of two persons, one to the other; and no longer a total commitment of love, where a sexual love-union is expected to lead to, and be cemented by, the children that this union should naturally give rise to. In this secular view (which has become so widespread in the Church), marriage is basically an à deux arrangement, while a family is a possible annex that can be added later on, if convenient. Children, instead of being the natural fruit of married love, and the glue that holds it together in times of stress, are reduced to the category of minor accessories to the personal happiness of each of two fundamentally separate people, hence dispensable (like the marriage itself), if they no longer serve each individual’s happiness. Under such a view, marriages open-to-divorce, or simple cohabitation, become valid and even preferable options.
What is needed is a more natural, noble, and generous response to the family ideal that should inspire every healthy decision to marry. What we have instead, and it has been growing powerfully over the past 50 years, is a calculated individualistic approach to marriage and the family. Such an approach can only increase solitude and sadness, never overcome them.
Pre-marriage Instruction
To me, perhaps the most important issue to be addressed by the Synod is the need for pre-marriage instruction, inspired by sound anthropological (and not just theological) arguments, that draw out the positive, if challenging, nature of the commitment to marriage and the family. I say this because, in my experience, premarital instruction is often seriously deficient in its presentation of the power and appeal of Christian marriage; and this on both the supernatural and human levels.
The supernatural aspect: marriage must be presented as a genuine, God-given vocation to holiness, dwelling equally on the specific graces that, as a sacrament, it continually offers for the joyful and faithful fulfillment of this divine calling and mission. 1
The human aspect: bringing out, in-depth, the marvelously positive anthropological teachings of Vatican II, which present marriage as a covenant of love, highlighting marital consent as a mutual self-gift, and seeing children as both the natural outcome of that love, and the guarantee of its continuance in the future.
Both aspects need to be developed in any proper catechesis. But the second, if presented in all its human power, should come first. Only if fully expounded and personally absorbed can it counter, and gradually overcome, the pervading modern mindset which considers any binding choice to be alienating, and a threat to one’s freedom, and regards marrying and having a family as a fool’s choice, when all one needs is sex—which can be had free, just provided that it is made “safe.”
The personalism of Vatican II, firmly grounded in the Gospel, and with its human logic and appealing challenge, offers the jolting but only true answer to this dead-end individualism. Self-centeredness is the great enemy of happiness and salvation (“whoever seeks his life will lose it”). We all need to be drawn out of isolating self-protectiveness (“it is not good for man to be alone …”). People’s hearts are made for love, not for selfishness. They need to be reminded that selfishness leaves the heart cold, empty, and alone; only love can fill and expand it. Love that is true, love that admires, and wants to respect and give. For true love wants to give, as well as to possess. Without giving one’s self, one cannot experience true love. We all need a self-gift that is for something worthwhile as well as total (if the gift is not total, then it is, at most, a loan). For the vast majority of persons, marriage is meant to be precisely such a gift: freely, totally, and unconditionally made. Those who baulk at such a self-gift will remain progressively more and more trapped in their own isolation and solitude.
Then children can be seen as what they are meant to be—“the supreme gift of marriage” (GS 50), a gift that comes from God, and binds the spouses more strongly together in the noblest aspect of their common enterprise. Children are what make each married couple uniquely rich. Other people may have a better job or house or car; only they can have their children.
Divorce, Nullity
Divorce, ungrounded petitions of nullity, and contraception, have never favored happiness; certainly not that of the children, but not that of the spouses either. These are anthropological, not theological, truths. Divorce is always a collapse of a dream, a failure. It destroys the family. Those who most suffer from it are the children. Hence, anything that might make divorce seem an acceptable option (and not, as it almost always is, a major reneging on freely accepted responsibilities) is anti-family.
Declarations of nullity, if they are truly based on the facts, are a matter of justice to the parties; but, if there are children, they also mark the breakup of a family. If the necessary process for deciding a petition of nullity can be quickened without detriment to truth and justice, I am all in favor. But the anti-family aspect of the matter remains.
As a former judge of the Rota, I do think that matrimonial processes can be simplified and, thus, speeded up—but marginally. To address that question however is not to address the problems facing the family. Besides, if “speeding up” were to be at the cost of truth, we would have done harm to people’s fundamental trust in the Church, as well as to the whole institution of marriage.
A further marginal, but important, observation on this point. For more than 50 years, our tribunals have been treating nullity cases almost exclusively on the grounds of consensual incapacity (c. 1095). I do not believe that the great majority of those marrying today are incapable of giving valid consent. I believe that they are quite capable; but many do not give it—not because of incapacity, but because of exclusion of one of the essential properties of matrimonial consent (the indissolubility of the bond, for instance). That is not incapacity, but simulation (c. 1101).
To my mind, the main cause of greatly increased marital breakdowns, and the consequent breakup of families, has been the lost sense of the sacredness of human sexuality, and of how the meaning and dignity of the sexual relationship must be respected both before, and in, marriage. Once contraception within marriage began to be presented as legitimate (in a generalized form from the 1960s on), it was inevitable that we reach the present situation where the one and only rule about sex is that it be “safe.”
Elsewhere (avoiding any appeal to theology) I have tried to elucidate the purely natural reasons why contraception is incompatible with, and destructive of, any genuine expression of married love. 2
Natural Family Planning has come to occupy a disproportionate place in premarital instruction. Well-formed Christian couples, with a proper understanding of the greatness of their married mission, will always see it, in the context of  “the proper generosity of responsible parenthood” (cf. CCC 2368), as a privation which sufficient reasons may indeed impose on them; but still remains a privation for them and especially for their existing children. How they need to be reminded of that incisive observation of John Paul II early in his pontificate: “it is certainly less serious (for a couple) to deny their children certain comforts, or material advantages, than to deprive them of the presence of brothers and sisters, who could help them to grow in humanity, and to realize the beauty of life at all its ages, and in all its variety.” 3
NFP, if not adopted for serious reasons, introduces that element of calculation into married life, which in turn makes the fostering of generous ideals among the children more difficult. Generous parents make for generous children; calculating parents, for calculating children. Generous parents rear generous children. Calculating parents, smaller-hearted children. The great decline in vocations to the priesthood, etc., over the past 50 years surely finds part of its explanation right here. 4
Only proper instruction can free our young people preparing for marriage from the pervading anti-family mindset of the world in which they are immersed. The Christian ideal has always appeared as “counter-cultural.” It is no longer just unborn children, but the family itself, the first school of humanity, which is threatened by the culture of death, to which John Paul II so strove to alert us, calling Christians to oppose it with a vigorous culture of life. “Life to humanity,” “Life to the family,” these are the rallying cries that Christian couples (and the world through them) need to be inspired by, and to incarnate in, their married lives.
Little sense of marriage as a God-given call and mission; self-defeating fear of commitment; children seen as “optional extras,” 5 to be rationed or simply avoided; the family regarded as a demanding burden, and not as a fulfilling privilege. All of this is becoming the prevalent outlook of modern western society. And it powerfully affects married Christians, or those preparing for marriage. There are really major issues facing the Synod.

[1] cf. “Marriage as a Sacrament of Sanctification” (Annales Theologici 9 (1995), 71-87), at
[2] cf. the author’s Covenanted Happiness, Scepter 2011, ch. 8: at the same site: node/995
[3] Homily, Washington, D.C., October 7, 1979.
[4] cf. “Family Planning and Married Fulfillment” International Review, 13 (1989), 189-196 (at the same site: node/347
[5] Or (in apparent contrast but actually in logical complement) the “right” to a child: for a married couple, for a same-sex couple, for a single person.

1.    cf. “Marriage as a Sacrament of Sanctification” (Annales Theologici 9 (1995), 71-87), at 
2.    cf. the author’s Covenanted Happiness, Scepter 2011, ch. 8: at the same site: node/995 
3.    Homily, Washington, D.C., October 7, 1979. 
4.    cf. “Family Planning and Married Fulfillment” International Review, 13 (1989), 189-196 (at the same site: node/347 
5.    Or (in apparent contrast but actually in logical complement) the “right” to a child: for a married couple, for a same-sex couple, for a single person. 


About Fr. Cormac Burke
Cormac Burke, a former Irish civil lawyer, was ordained a priest of the Opus Dei Prelature in 1955. After 30 years of pastoral work in Africa, the United States, and England, he was appointed a judge of the High Court of the Church, the Roman Rota (1986-1999). On retirement, he returned to Nairobi, Kenya, where he continues to teach and write. His latest book, The Theology of Marriage: Personalism, Doctrine and Canon Law, is being published Fall 2014 by the Catholic University of America Press. His website is:

On t he Feast of St. Luke - October 18, 2004

1)      Scripture is the locus and occasion of divine revelation. It is not revelation in itself, just as a book in my pocket cannot be referred to as “revelation.” As book, it is not the experience of a divine Person.[1] Rather, Revelation takes place in the moment that the “I” of the believer becomes the “I” of the Jesus Christ, and the believer – now “another Christ” – experiences the divine Person of Christ ab intus, from within himself. The only person you know experientially is yourself, since only you exercise your freedom in determining and mastering yourself. Therefore, only you can experience yourself as the unique you.
2)      Luke transcribes this occasion: “And it came to pass as he was praying in private, that his disciples also were with him, and he asked them, saying, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’” (Lk. 9, 18). Joseph Ratzinger wrote: “According to Luke, we see who Jesus is if we see him at prayer. The Christian confession of faith comes from participating in the prayer of Jesus, from being drawn into his prayer and being privileged to behold it; it interprets the experience of Jesus prayer, and its interpretation of Jesus is correct because it springs from a sharing in what is most personal and intimate to him.”[2]

It is on this written testimony of Luke that was taken from Peter, St. Paul, as were the infancy stories take from the Virgin, that we come to the unique way we are to know the Incarnate Son of the living God: Prayer. If we pray – as self-gift – the physiognomy of our personhood changes from “in-self” to “out of self.” And here it is important to take advantage of the distinction that the Protestant theologian, Paul Tillich, makes: the distinction of knowing Christ as overcoming the estrangement from a friend who always has been known and loved, and being introduced to a stranger. Robert Barron writes: “According to the first method, one finds God as the ground and source of one’s own existence, as that which is absolutely intimate to the subject, though at the same time other. In the second way, one encounters God as a stranger, as that to which one has no essential link, as that which stands over and against the subject as an alien.”[3]

        That is to say, one “knows” Christ only by becoming Christ, just as “Rock” can only known by becoming “Peter” (Rock). Or as the Aparecida Conference said it in 2007 and written by Bergoglio: Only God knows God. And this is not strange since Our Lord remarks in Mt. 11, 27: “No one knows the Don except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
   Luke’s careful testimony  has given us the “theological epistemology” as Ratzinger calls it.[4]

[1] “You can have Scripture without having revelation. For revelation always and only becomes a reality where there is faith. The non believer remains under the veil of which Paul speaks in the third chapter of his Second Letter to the Corinthians. He can read Scripture and know what is in it, can even understand at a purely intellectual level, what is meant and how what is said hangs together – and yet he has not shared in the revelation. Rather, revelation has only arrived where, in addition to the material assertions witnessing to it, its inner reality has itself become effective after the manner of faith. Consequently, the person who receives it also is a part of the revelation to a certain degree, for without him it does not exist. You cannot put revelation in your pocket like a book you carry around with you. It is a living reality that requires a living person as the locus of its presence;” J. Ratzinger, “God’s Word, Scripture, Tradition, Office,” (2008) 52.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 19.
[3] R. Barron, “A Study of the De Potentia of Thomas Aquinas in Light of the Dogmatik of Paul Tillich: Creation and Discipleship,” Mellen Research University Press, San Francisco (1993) 4-5.
[4] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One” op. cit. 26.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Not Mere Optimism, But Hope in Christ

The Icon of Self-Gift


The church of Christ is called to keep the light of hope alive in the world, showing all humanity the path leading to "the merciful face of God" and salvation in Christ, Pope Francis said.
Focusing his general audience talk Wednesday on the ultimate destiny of the church and all its members, Pope Francis asked the estimated 30,000 people in St. Peter's Square to repeat with him three times: "We will be with God forever."
"Look," the pope told them, "Christian hope is not simply a desire or wish, it is not optimism. No! For a Christian, hope is expectation, a fervent, passionate expectation of the ultimate and definitive fulfillment of a mystery: the mystery of the love of God in which we were reborn and are already living."
In this world, the Christian life is a time of preparation for the ultimate meeting with the Lord, he said.
"The church is the people of God who follow the Lord and prepare day-by-day for the encounter with him, like a bride preparing for her groom. It's not just an expression; there will be a real wedding," Pope Francis said. Jesus became human, died and rose again to fulfill "the plan of communion and love woven by God in the course of history."
At the same time, he said, Christians must ask themselves "with great sincerity: Are we really bright and credible witnesses of this expectation, this hope? Are our communities marked by the presence of the Lord and eager expectation of his coming? Or do they seem tired, numb, weighed down by effort and resignation?"
Pope Francis urged Catholics to pray to Mary, "mother of hope and queen of heaven," to help the church "always remain in an attitude of listening and expectation" and "permeated by the love of Christ."

Referring to Revelation 21, Pope Francis said the Bible also tells Christians that there will be "a new heaven and a new earth," and that the church "will make visible the 'new Jerusalem.' This means that the church, in addition to being the bride, is called to become a city -- the symbol par excellence of coexistence and human relationships."

Relatio post disceptationem for 2014 Synod of Bishops on the family

There are no suggestions for doctrinal change in this document. It points to Jesus Christ as the ontological revelation of Matrimony in His Self-gift to death on the Cross for  the Church, reminiscent of  St. Paul's "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the Church" (Eph. 5, 25). It points out the contextual problem that is the culural individualism, which is characterized as "exasperated" and "that distorts family bonds  and ends up considreing each component of the family as an isolated unit," but the meaning of the family, the self-giving oneness of the spouses, images the oneness of the Father and the Son:  "12. In order to 'walk among contemporary challenges, the decisive condition is to maintain a fixed gaze on Jesus Christ, to pause in contemplation and in adoration of His Face. ... Indeed, every time we return to the source of the Christian experience, new paths and undreamed of possibilities open up' (Pope Francis, Address of 4 October 2014).... 13. From the moment that the order of creation is determined by orientation towards Christ, it becomes necessary to distinguish without separating the various levels through which God communicates the grace of the covenant to humanity. Through the law of gradualness (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 34), typical of divine pedagogy, this means interpreting the nuptial covenant in terms of continuity and novelty, in the order of creation and in that of redemption.
 14. Jesus Himself, referring to the primordial plan for the human couple, reaffirms the indissoluble union between man and woman, while understanding that "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning" (Mt 19,8). In this way, He shows how divine condescension always accompanies the path of humanity, directing it towards its new beginning, not without passing through the cross." 
     And so it seems that at root there is a metaphysical ground to this half-way document where the "Being" of the conjugal - "unum" - is the meaning of the human person as found in the Person of Christ. He is the "unum" with the Church - the ikon of matrimomy - for Whom He gave Himself totally as God-man. The "divine condescension" is the divine mercy for the persons of man and woman in a gradual development of conversion from the individualism of self-referentialy in which marriages have fallen into social and economic individualism.
 |  Oct. 15, 2014
Synod14 -- Eleventh General Assembly: "Relatio post disceptationem" of the General Rapporteur,

Card. Péter Erdő, 13.10.2014 


1.      During the prayer vigil held in St Peter's Square on 4 October 2014 in preparation for the Synod on the family, Pope Francis evoked the centrality of the experience of family in all lives, in a simple and concrete manner: "Evening falls on our assembly. It is the hour at which one willingly returns home to meet at the same table, in the depth of affection, of the good that has been done and received, of the encounters which warm the heart and make it grow, good wine which hastens the unending feast in the days of man. It is also the weightiest hour for one who finds himself face to face with his own loneliness, in the bitter twilight of shattered dreams and broken plans; how many people trudge through the day in the blind alley of resignation, of abandonment, even resentment: in how many homes the wine of joy has been less plentiful, and therefore, also the zest -- the very wisdom -- for life [...]. Let us make our prayer heard for one another this evening, a prayer for all".

2. The source of joys and trials, of deep affections and relations -- at times wounded -- the family is truly a "school of humanity" ("Familia schola quaedam uberioris humanitatis est", Vatican Council II, Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,Gaudium et Spes, 52), of which we are in great need. Despite the many signs of crisis in the institution of the family in various contexts of the "global village", the desire for family remains alive, especially among the young, and is at the root of the Church's need to proclaim tirelessly and with profound conviction the "Gospel of the family" entrusted to her with the revelation of God's love in Jesus Christ.
3. The Bishop of Rome called upon the Synod of Bishops to reflect upon the situation of the family, decisive and valuable, in its Extraordinary General Assembly of October 2014, a reflection which will then be pursued in greater depth in the Ordinary General Assembly scheduled to take place in October 2015, as well as during the full intervening year between the two synodal events. "The convenire in unum around the Bishop of Rome is already an event of grace, in which episcopal collegiality is made manifest in a path of spiritual and pastoral discernment": thus Pope Francis described the synodal experience, indicating its tasks in the dual process of listening to the signs of God and the history of mankind and in the resulting dual and unique fidelity.

4. In the light of the same discourse we have gathered together the results of our reflections and our dialogues in the following three parts: listening, to look at the situation of the family today, in the complexity of its light and shade; looking, our gaze fixed on Christ, to re-evaluate with renewed freshness and enthusiasm what the revelation transmitted in the faith of the Church tells us about the beauty and dignity of the family; and discussion in the light of the Lord Jesus to discern the ways in which the Church and society can renew their commitment to the family.
Part I
Listening: the context and challenges to the family
The socio-cultural context

 5. Anthropological and cultural change today influences all aspects of life and requires an analytic and diversified approach, able to discern the positive forms of individual freedom. It is necessary to be aware of the growing danger represented by an exasperated individualism that distorts family bonds and ends up considering each component of the family as an isolated unit, leading in some cases to the prevalence of an idea of the subject formed according to his or her own wishes, which are assumed as absolute.
 6. The most difficult test for families in our time is often solitude, which destroys and gives rise to a general sensation of impotence in relation to the socio-economic situation that often ends up crushing them. This is due to growing precariousness in the workplace that is often experienced as a nightmare, or due to heavy taxation that certainly does not encourage young people to marriage.
 7. Some cultural and religious contexts pose particular challenges. In African societies the practice of polygamy remains, along with, in some traditional contexts, the custom of "marriage in stages". In other contexts the practice of "arranged marriages" persists. In countries in which Catholicism is a minority religion, there are many mixed marriages with all the difficulties that these may lead to in terms of legal form, the education of children and mutual respect from the point of view of religious freedom, but also with the great potential that derives from the encounter between the differences in faith that these stories of family life present. In many contexts, and not only in the West, the practice of cohabitation before marriage, or indeed cohabitation not orientated towards assuming the form of an institutional bond, is increasingly widespread.
 8. Many children are born outside marriage, especially in certain countries, and there are many who subsequently grow up with just one of their parents or in an enlarged or reconstituted family context. The number of divorces is growing and it is not rare to encounter cases in which decisions are taken solely on the basis of economic factors. The condition of women still needs to be defended and promoted, as situations of violence within the family are not rare. Children are frequently the object of contention between parents, and are the true victims of family breakdown. Societies riven by violence due to war, terrorism or the presence of organized crime experience deteriorating family situations. Furthermore, migration is another sign of the times, to be faced and understood in terms of the burden of consequences for family life.
The relevance of emotional life
 9. Faced with the social framework outlined above, a greater need is encountered among individuals to take care of themselves, to know their inner being, and to live in greater harmony with their emotions and sentiments, seeking a relational quality in emotional life. In the same way, it is possible to encounter a widespread desire for family accompanied by the search for oneself. But how can this attention to the care for oneself be cultivated and maintained, alongside this desire for family? This is a great challenge for the Church too. The danger of individualism and the risk of living selfishly are significant.
 10. Today's world appears to promote limitless affectivity, seeking to explore all its aspects, including the most complex. Indeed, the question of emotional fragility is very current: a narcissistic, unstable or changeable affectivity do not always help greater maturity to be reached. In this context, couples are often uncertain and hesitant, struggling to find ways to grow. Many tend to remain in the early stages of emotional and sexual life. The crisis in the couple destabilizes the family and may lead, through separations and divorce, to serious consequences for adults, children and society as a whole, weakening the individual and social bonds. The decline in population not only creates a situation in which the alternation of generations is no longer assured, but over time also risks leading to economic impoverishment and a loss of hope in the future.
Pastoral challenges
 11. In this context the Church is aware of the need to offer a meaningful word of hope. It is necessary to set out from the conviction that man comes from God and that, therefore, a reflection able to reframe the great questions on the meaning of human existence, may find fertile ground in humanity's most profound expectations. The great values of marriage and the Christian family correspond to the search that distinguishes human existence even in a time marked by individualism and hedonism. It is necessary to accept people in their concrete being, to know how to support their search, to encourage the wish for God and the will to feel fully part of the Church, also on the part of those who have experienced failure or find themselves in the most diverse situations. This requires that the doctrine of the faith, the basic content of which should be made increasingly better known, be proposed alongside with mercy.

The gaze upon Christ: the Gospel of the Family

The gaze upon Jesus and gradualness in the history of salvation

 12. In order to "walk among contemporary challenges, the decisive condition is to maintain a fixed gaze on Jesus Christ, to pause in contemplation and in adoration of His Face. ... Indeed, every time we return to the source of the Christian experience, new paths and undreamed of possibilities open up" (Pope Francis, Address of 4 October 2014). Jesus looked upon the women and the men he met with love and tenderness, accompanying their steps with patience and mercy, in proclaiming the demands of the Kingdom of God.
 13. From the moment that the order of creation is determined by orientation towards Christ, it becomes necessary to distinguish without separating the various levels through which God communicates the grace of the covenant to humanity. Through the law of gradualness (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 34), typical of divine pedagogy, this means interpreting the nuptial covenant in terms of continuity and novelty, in the order of creation and in that of redemption.
 14. Jesus Himself, referring to the primordial plan for the human couple, reaffirms the indissoluble union between man and woman, while understanding that "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning" (Mt 19,8). In this way, He shows how divine condescension always accompanies the path of humanity, directing it towards its new beginning, not without passing through the cross.
The family in God's salvific plan
 15. Since, by their commitment to mutual acceptance and with the grace of Christ couples promise fidelity to one another and openness to life, they acknowledge as constitutive elements of marriage the gifts God offers them, taking their mutual responsibility seriously, in His name and before the Church. Now, in faith it is possible to assume the goods of marriage as commitments best maintained with the help of the grace of the sacrament. God consecrates love between spouses and confirms its indissolubility, offering them help in living in fidelity and openness to life. Therefore, the gaze of the Church turns not only to the couple, but to the family.
 16. We are able to distinguish three fundamental phases in the divine plan for the family: the family of origins, when God the creator instituted the primordial marriage between Adam and Eve, as a solid foundation for the family: he created them male and female (cg. Gn 1,24-31; 2,4b); the historic family, wounded by sin (cf. Gn 3) and the family redeemed by Christ (cf. Eph 5,21-32), in the image of the Holy Trinity, the mystery from which every true love springs. The sponsal covenant, inaugurated in creation and revealed in the history of God and Israel, reaches its fullest expression with Christ in the Church.
The discernment of values present in wounded families and in irregular situations
 17. In considering the principle of gradualness in the divine salvific plan, one asks what possibilities are given to married couples who experience the failure of their marriage, or rather how it is possible to offer them Christ's help through the ministry of the Church. In this respect, a significant hermeneutic key comes from the teaching of Vatican Council II, which, while it affirms that "although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure ... these elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward Catholic unity" (Lumen Gentium, 8).
 18. In this light, the value and consistency of natural marriage must first be emphasized. Some ask whether the sacramental fullness of marriage does not exclude the possibility of recognizing positive elements even the imperfect forms that may be found outside this nuptial situation, which are in any case ordered in relation to it. The doctrine of levels of communion, formulated by Vatican Council II, confirms the vision of a structured way of participating in the Mysterium Ecclesiae by baptized persons.
 19. In the same, perspective, that we may consider inclusive, the Council opens up the horizon for appreciating the positive elements present in other religions (cf. Nostra Aetate, 2) and cultures, despite their limits and their insufficiencies (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 55). Indeed, looking at the human wisdom present in these, the Church learns how the family is universally considered as the necessary and fruitful form of human cohabitation. In this sense, the order of creation, in which the Christian vision of the family is rooted, unfolds historically, in different cultural and geographical expressions.
 20. Realizing the need, therefore, for spiritual discernment with regard to cohabitation, civil marriages and divorced and remarried persons, it is the task of the Church to recognize those seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries. Following the expansive gaze of Christ, whose light illuminates every man (cf. Jn 1,9; cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22), the Church turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings.
Truth and beauty of the family and mercy

 21. The Gospel of the family, while it shines in the witness of many families who live coherently their fidelity to the sacrament, with their mature fruits of authentic daily sanctity, must also nurture those seeds that are yet to mature, and must care for those trees that have dried up and wish not to be neglected.
 22. In this respect, a new dimension of today's family pastoral consists of accepting the reality of civil marriage and also cohabitation, taking into account the due differences. Indeed, when a union reaches a notable level of stability through a public bond, is characterized by deep affection, responsibility with regard to offspring, and capacity to withstand tests, it may be seen as a germ to be accompanied in development towards the sacrament of marriage. Very often, however, cohabitation is established not with a view to a possible future marriage, but rather without any intention of establishing an institutionally-recognized relationship.
 23. Imitating Jesus' merciful gaze, the Church must accompany her most fragile sons and daughters, marked by wounded and lost love, with attention and care, restoring trust and hope to them like the light of a beacon in a port, or a torch carried among the people to light the way for those who are lost or find themselves in the midst of the storm. 
Part III

The discussion: pastoral perspectives

Proclaiming the Gospel of the family today, in various contexts

 24. The Synod dialog has allowed an agreement on some of the more urgent pastoral needs to be entrusted to being made concrete in the individual local Churches, in communion cum Petro et sub Petro.
 25. The announcement of the Gospel of the family is an urgent issue for the new evangelization. The Church has to carry this out with the tenderness of a mother and the clarity of a teacher (cf. Eph 4,15), in fidelity to the merciful kenosis of Christ. The truth is incarnated in human fragility not to condemn it, but to cure it.
 26. Evangelizing is the shared responsibility of all God's people, each according to his or her own ministry and charism. Without the joyous testimony of spouses and families, the announcement, even if correct, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words that is a characteristic of our society (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte, 50). On various occasions the Synodal Fathers underlined that Catholic families are called upon themselves to be the active subjects of all the pastoral of the family.
 27. It will be decisive to highlight the primacy of grace, and therefore of the possibilities that the Spirit gives in the sacrament. This is about letting it be known that the Gospel of the family is a joy that «fills the hearts and lives», because in Christ we are «set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness» (Evangelii Gaudium, 1). In the light of the parable of the sower (cf. Mt 13,3), our task is to cooperate in the sowing: the rest is God's work. We must not forget that the Church that preaches about the family is a sign of contradiction.
 28. For this reason, what is required is a missionary conversion: it is necessary not to stop at an announcement that is merely theoretical and has nothing to do with people's real problems. It must not be forgotten that the crisis of faith has led to a crisis in matrimony and the family and, as a result, the transmission of faith from parents to children has often been interrupted. Confronted by a strong faith, the imposition of certain cultural perspectives that weaken the family is of no importance.
 29. Conversion has, above all, to be that of language so that this might prove to be effectively meaningful. The announcement is about letting it be experienced that the Gospel of the family is the response to the deepest expectations of a person: to his or her dignity and its full realization in reciprocity and communion. This is not merely about presenting a set of regulations but about putting forward values, responding to the need of those who find themselves today even in the most secularized countries.
 30. The indispensable biblical-theological study is to be accompanied by dialog, at all levels. Many insisted on a more positive approach to the riches contained in diverse religious experiences, while not being blind to the difficulties. In the diverse cultural realities the possibilities should first be grasped and in the light of them the limits and radicalizations should be rejected.
 31. Christian marriage cannot only be considered as a cultural tradition or social obligation, but has to be a vocational decision taken with the proper preparation in an itinerary of faith, with mature discernment. This is not about creating difficulties and complicating the cycles of formation, but of going deeply into the issue and not being content with theoretical meetings or general orientations.
 32. The need was jointly referred to for a conversion of all pastoral practices from the perspective of the family, overcoming the individualistic points of view that still characterize it. This is why there was a repeated insistence on renewing in this light the training of presbyters and other pastoral operators, through a greater involvement of the families themselves.
 33. In the same way, the necessity was underlined for an evangelization that denounces clearly the cultural, social and economic factors, for example, the excessive room given to market logic, that prevents an authentic family life, leading to discrimination, poverty, exclusion, and violence. For this reason a dialog and cooperation has to be developed with the social structures, and lay people who are involved in cultural and socio-political fields should be encouraged.
Guiding couples on the path in preparation for marriage

 34. The complex social reality and the changes that the family is called on today to deal with require a greater undertaking from the whole Christian community for the preparation of those who are about to be married. As regards this necessity the Synodal Fathers agreed to underline the need for a greater involvement of the entire community privileging the testimony of the families themselves, as well as a rooting of the preparation for marriage in the path of Christian initiation, underlining the connection between marriage and the other sacraments. In the same way, the necessity was highlighted for specific programs for preparation for marriage that are a true experience of participation in the ecclesial life and that study closely the diverse aspects of family life.
Accompanying the early years of married life
 35. The early years of marriage are a vital and delicate period during which couples grow in the awareness of the challenges and meaning of matrimony. Thus the need for a pastoral accompaniment that goes beyond the celebration of the sacrament. Of great importance in this pastoral is the presence of experienced couples. The parish is considered the ideal place for expert couples to place themselves at the disposal of younger ones. Couples need to be encouraged towards a fundamental welcome of the great gift of children. The importance of family spirituality and prayer needs to be underlined, encouraging couples to meet regularly to promote the growth of the spiritual life and solidarity in the concrete demands of life. Meaningful liturgies, devotional practices and the Eucharist celebrated for families, were mentioned as vital in favoring evangelization through the family.
Positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation

 36. A new sensitivity in today's pastoral consists in grasping the positive reality of civil weddings and, having pointed out our differences, of cohabitation. It is necessary that in the ecclesial proposal, while clearly presenting the ideal, we also indicate the constructive elements in those situations that do not yet or no longer correspond to that ideal. 
 37. It was also noted that in many countries an "an increasing number live together ad experimentum, in unions which have not been religiously or civilly recognized" (Instrumentum Laboris, 81). In Africa this occurs especially in traditional marriages, agreed between families and often celebrated in different stages. Faced by these situations, the Church is called on to be "the house of the Father, with doors always wide open [...] where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems" (Evangelii Gaudium, 47) and to move towards those who feel the need to take up again their path of faith, even if it is not possible to celebrate a religious marriage.
 38. In the West as well there is an increasingly large number of those who, having lived together for a long period of time, ask to be married in the Church. Simple cohabitation is often a choice inspired by a general attitude, which is opposed to institutions and definitive undertakings, but also while waiting for a secure existence (a steady job and income). In other countries common-law marriages are very numerous, not because of a rejection of Christian values as regards the family and matrimony, but, above all, because getting married is a luxury, so that material poverty encourages people to live in common-law marriages. Furthermore in such unions it is possible to grasp authentic family values or at least the wish for them. Pastoral accompaniment should always start from these positive aspects.
 39. All these situations have to be dealt with in a constructive manner, seeking to transform them into opportunities to walk towards the fullness of marriage and the family in the light of the Gospel. They need to be welcomed and accompanied with patience and delicacy. With a view to this, the attractive testimony of authentic Christian families is important, as subjects for the evangelization of the family.
Caring for wounded families (the separated, the divorced who have not remarried, the divorced who have remarried)

 40. What rang out clearly in the Synod was the necessity for courageous pastoral choices. Reconfirming forcefully the fidelity to the Gospel of the family, the Synodal Fathers, felt the urgent need for new pastoral paths, that begin with the effective reality of familial fragilities, recognizing that they, more often than not, are more "endured" than freely chosen. These are situations that are diverse because of personal as well as cultural and socio-economic factors. It is not wise to think of unique solutions or those inspired by a logic of "all or nothing". The dialog and meeting that took place in the Synod will have to continue in the local Churches, involving their various components, in such a way that the perspectives that have been drawn up might find their full maturation in the work of the next Ordinary General Assembly. The guidance of the Spirit, constantly invoked, will allow all God's people to live the fidelity to the Gospel of the family as a merciful caring for all situations of fragility.
 41. Each damaged family first of all should be listened to with respect and love, becoming companions on the journey as Christ did with the disciples of the road to Emmaus. In a particular way the words of Pope Francis apply in these situations: «The Church will have to initiate everyone -- priests, religious and laity -- into this "art of accompaniment", which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Es 3,5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life» (Evangelii Gaudium, 169).
 42. Such discernment is indispensable for the separated and divorced. What needs to be respected above all is the suffering of those who have endured separation and divorce unjustly. The forgiveness for the injustice endured is not easy, but it is a journey that grace makes possible. In the same way it needs to be always underlined that it is indispensable to assume in a faithful and constructive way the consequences of separation or divorce on the children: they must not become an "object" to be fought over and the most suitable means need to be sought so that they can get over the trauma of the family break-up and grow up in the most serene way possible.
 43. Various Fathers underlined the necessity to make the recognition of cases of nullity more accessible and flexible. Among the propositions were the abandonment of the need for the double conforming sentence; the possibility of establishing an administrative means under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop; a summary process to be used in cases of clear nullity. According to authoritative propositions, the possibility should then be considered of giving weight to the faith of those about to be married in terms of the validity of the sacrament of marriage. It needs to emphasized that in all these cases it is about the ascertaining of the truth over the validity of the obstacle.
 44. As regards matrimonial suits, the speeding-up of the procedure, requested by many, as well as the preparation of a sufficient number of operators, clerics and lay people, dedicating themselves to this, requires an increase in the responsibilities of the diocesan bishop, who in his diocese might charge a specially trained priest who would be able to offer the parties advice on the validity of their marriage.
Divorced and Remarried
 45. Divorced people who have not remarried should be invited to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their state. The local community and pastors have to accompany these people with solicitude, particularly when there are children involved or they find themselves in a serious situation of poverty.
 46. In the same way the situation of the divorced who have remarried demands a careful discernment and an accompaniment full of respect, avoiding any language or behavior that might make them feel discriminated against. For the Christian community looking after them is not a weakening of its faith and its testimony to the indissolubility of marriage, but rather it expresses precisely its charity in its caring.

Receiving the Eucharist and Penance
 47. As regards the possibility of partaking of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, some argued in favor of the present regulations because of their theological foundation, others were in favor of a greater opening on very precise conditions when dealing with situations that cannot be resolved without creating new injustices and suffering. For some, partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path -- under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop --, and with a clear undertaking in favor of the children. This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances.
 48. Suggesting limiting themselves to only "spiritual communion" was questioned by more than a few Synodal Fathers: if spiritual communion is possible, why not allow them to partake in the sacrament? As a result a greater theological study was requested starting with the links between the sacrament of marriage and the Eucharist in relation to the Church-sacrament. In the same way, the moral dimension of the problem requires further consideration, listening to and illuminating the consciences of spouses.
 49. The problems relative to mixed marriages were frequently raised in the interventions of the Synodal Fathers. The differences in the matrimonial regulations of the Orthodox Churches creates serious problems in certain contexts to which have to be found suitable responses in communion with the Pope. The same applies to inter-religious marriages.
Welcoming homosexual persons

 50. Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?
 51. The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.
 52. Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.
The transmission of life and the challenge of the declining birthrate

 53. It is not difficult to notice the spread of a mentality that reduces the generation of life to a variable of an individual's or a couple's plans. Economic factors sometimes have enough weight to contribute to the sharp drop in the birthrate which weakens the social fabric, compromising the relationship between generations and rendering the view of the future less certain. Being open to life is an intrinsic requirement of married love.
 54. Probably here as well what is required is a realistic language that is able to start from listening to people and acknowledging the beauty and truth of an unconditional opening to life as that which human life requires to be lived to its fullest. It is on this base that we can rest an appropriate teaching regarding natural methods, which allow the living in a harmonious and aware way of the communication between spouses, in all its dimensions, along with generative responsibility. In this light, we should go back to the message of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae of Paul VI, which underlines the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control.
 55. So help is required to live affectivity, in marriage as well, as a path of maturation, in the evermore profound welcoming of the other and in an ever-fuller giving. It has to be emphasized in this sense the need to offer formative paths that nourish married life and the importance of a laity that provides an accompaniment consisting of living testimony. It is undoubtedly of great help the example of a faithful and profound love made up of tenderness, of respect, capable of growing in time and which in its concrete opening to the generation of life allows us to experience a mystery that transcends us.
The challenge of education and the role of the family in evangelization
 56. The fundamental challenge facing families today is undoubtedly that of education, rendered more difficult and complex by today's cultural reality. What have to be considered are the needs and expectations of families capable of testifying in daily life, places of growth, of concrete and essential transmission of the virtues that provide form for existence.
 57. In this Church can carry out a precious role in supporting families, starting from Christian initiation, through welcoming communities. What is asked of these, today even more than yesterday, in complex as well as mundane situations, is to support parents in their educative undertaking, accompanying children and young people in their growth through personalized paths capable of introducing them to the full meaning of life and encouraging choices and responsibilities, lived in the light of the Gospel.
 58. The reflections put forward, the fruit of the Synodal dialog that took place in great freedom and a spirit of reciprocal listening, 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. These are not decisions that have been made nor simply points of view. All the same the collegial path of the bishops and the involvement of all God's people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit will lead us to find roads of truth and mercy for all. This is the wish that from the beginning of our work Pope Francis has extended to us, inviting us to the courage of the faith and the humble and honest welcome of the truth in charity.
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