(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, Archbishop of Durban in South Africa, is one of the bishops participating in the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family that is coming to a close in the Vatican.
He is also one of those appointed to the group drafting a final document for the Synod for submission to Pope Francis by Sunday.
The document in question is the result of the revisions, done by the small working groups, of the “relatio post disceptationem” released at the end of the first week of the 14-day Synod.
In a conversation with Vatican Radio's Linda Bordoni, Cardinal Napier spoke of how the Synod has been an occasion to listen to differing ideas and concerns from across the world, and of how a climate of frank and open discussion has given life to a working document that reflects the core issues that have been addressed…
Listen to the interview:
Cardinal Napier says that “Unlike past synods, this one was more ‘orchestrated’ in the good sense of the word, in that people were asked to identify the area of the ‘instrumentum laboris’ they were going to speak on, and in what language group they wanted to be in” allowing for excellent organization and coordination. This – he said – made things much easier to follow.
Another relevant detail – Napier pointed out - was the tone set right from the beginning by Pope Francis when he asked his brother bishops to speak out “openly, honestly and with humility”. That happened, he said, and “I had never been in a Synod where there was such a good atmosphere”.
Then – he says – “came the publication of the ‘relatio’ and this was not to the liking of many Synod Fathers who were objecting that what was said by one or two people was largely presented (and was certainly being taken up by the media) as if it was the considered opinion of the whole synod. And that make people very angry”.
He says “there were two issues that got people ‘hot around the collar’. One was presenting homosexual unions as if they were a very positive thing.”
The second one – he explains - regarded broken marriages “and the fact that people should be facilitated to get access to the sacraments.”
Cardinal Napier says that because those two issues had not really been properly discussed and people hadn’t really had the chance to sound out their opinions on them, when they saw them published – and the media was immediately reacting to them – caused a lot of hurt. And as a result that beautiful spirit of openness suddenly got a little bit cloudy.
And then – he says - also the news that the group reports were not going to be published also caused much disappointment.
However Cardinal Napier said, almost at the end of the Synod, “From working on the documents and amendments it is quite clear there is a common vision. And that is: we are here to describe the problem situations that marriage and family life are facing. We must be clear about what those problems are: if we are going to address them and find answers let’s define them clearly – we can’t be distracted by side-shows because it is the majority of people who are involved in marriage that need us to be with them and to identify what are the issues” so we can support and help them.
“I think we have done a pretty good job in highlighting the main things that people wanted to see highlighted” he says.
Cardinal Napier also speaks of a widespread appreciation for the contribution of the African bishops at the Synod and he says their concerns are being understood and taken into due consideration: “I have been impressed by the number of times I have heard someone say ‘we better include that because it is what our African brothers said we must consider.”