(Vatican Radio) How far has the Irish Church come in responding to the challenges facing families today? What have its leaders learnt from the same-sex marriage referendum earlier this year? What response are they continuing to provide for families devastated by clerical abuse?
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh is attending his first Synod of bishops and is extremely impressed by the wealth of positive pastoral initiatives he’s been hearing from bishops in other parts of the globe. As his country starts planning for the World Meeting of Families in three years’ time, he told Philippa Hitchen that the Church in Ireland has a long way to go in providing adequate and effective responses to families in all kinds of need….
Archbishop Martin says he’s been very struck by the way Pope Francis has been modelling the kind of attentive listening to bishops throughout the three week meeting. The strength of the Synod, he says, is being able to hear one another and inside the Synod Hall or small groups there have been strong opinions “but also a respectful listening”, looking for synergies and convergence….
During the recent same-sex marriage campaign, the archbishop says Church leaders had to realise they were not the only voice, or even the dominant voice in society, so they had to rethink their attitude to pastoral accompaniment….
Archbishop Martin says he’s been struck by the ideas put forward by bishops in the Philippines and elsewhere, especially in small Christian communities where families support one another in times of need. He compares these to the “paltry efforts I’ve taken so far in my own diocese” where he says he’ll be looking to do much more at parish and diocesan level…
Looking ahead to the World Meeting of Families, he says it’s “a goal, a target date” as he begins to devise new programmes and new ways of reaching out, especially to lapsed Catholics who’ve drifted away from the Church and are no longer bringing up their children in the faith…
During the Synod, Archbishop chose to speak about the need to support families struggling with the effects of sexual abuse, not just at the hands of the clergy but also by family members themselves….