(Vatican Radio) How to bring together Church doctrine with the pressing pastoral concerns of its leaders. That’s the dilemma that participants at the Synod of Bishops on the Family have been wrestling with over the past two weeks and it was also the focus of the daily press briefing for journalists on Friday. To share some of the latest developments from behind the doors of the Synod Hall, Fr Lombardi was joined by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops conference, by Archbishop Georges Pontier, head of the French bishops conference and by Colombian lawyer, Dr Ilva Hoyos Castaneda, one of the lay experts at the Synod....
Philippa Hitchen reports:
How can Church leaders from different continents bridge their cultural differences, especially on the most sensitive issues of morality and sexuality? How can Catholics engage in constructive dialogue between deeply held beliefs and secular government policies? And how can they uphold Church teaching on marriage and the family while sharing in the daily struggles of people in so-called “irregular situations”?
Cardinal Marx from Munich noted that in Germany many committed Catholics are asking how the Church can be more inclusive of those who are divorced and remarried or living in homosexual relationships. Exclusion is not the language of the Church, he said, insisting that Catholics must move away from a “black and white…all or nothing” vocabulary. While there are significantly different perspectives at the Synod, according to a bishops’ cultural experiences or personal encounters, the cardinal said Pope Francis is seeking input that can take the Church forward, open new doors and discover new possibilities for bringing the Gospel to men and women today. The Pope did not invite us to two Synods, he remarked with a smile, to hear us simply repeat what we’ve always been saying!
Archbishop Pontier from Marseille spoke of the difficult process of engaging in dialogue around these hotly debated issues of same-sex relationships, that have brought hundreds of thousands of French families out onto the streets in recent months. While he said he was happy to see so many young people publically defending their traditional Catholic values, he said the urgent question is how to accompany them and help them move beyond confrontation to a fruitful debate. None of us has all the answers, he said, and we must help people to recognise the truth in the other person’s perspective.
Finally Colombian professor Ilva Hoyos Castaneda, who serves as her country’s Delegate Procurator for the defence of children and the family, said lay people must lead this crucial dialogue between Church and State, making sure that the voice of Catholic social teaching is being heard in the public arena. The welcome presence of women in this Synod, she said, is a sign of the new path that is opening up within the Church.