By Sarah Mac Donald - 25 October, 2015
The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin has said the Synod on the Family, through its final document, has provided the Church with both a manifesto and a challenge for pastoral action in the coming years.
Writing in the Sunday Independent, the Archbishop looks ahead to Ireland’s hosting of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin 2018 – one of the most significant events in the calendar of the Catholic Church – and states, “We have much to be getting on with.”
Referring to the divisions which emerged during the three-week long synod, Archbishop Martin dismissed media reports, saying “the western media and some Catholic commentators seemed fixated on intrigue and potential divisions amongst the bishops, particularly on the issues of homosexuality and communion for the divorced and remarried”.
Although these issues were discussed and there was a divergence of opinion, he underlined that they did not dominate or distract unduly from the main focus of the Synod, which was ‘The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World’.
Elsewhere in his Sunday Independent article, the Primate of All Ireland said the synod faced the “delicate task of trying to balance mercy and truth, doctrine and pastoral care, justice and forgiveness”.
He said it became clear to the Synod Fathers that the Church is called to accompany all families as they persevere through the ups and downs of everyday life, and to reach out with particular care and understanding to those who seek God but who have, for whatever reason, been unable to live fully in accordance with the teachings of the Church.
Those best placed to be the agents of such support and accompaniment for families, are faithful families themselves, especially when they are given opportunities for faith development and formation.
“Indeed, the discussion was deeply enriched, both before and during the Synod itself, by the contributions of lay people, including married couples (and one little baby!), who kept us all grounded in the realities of family life,” Dr Martin recalled.
In his article, he said that some of the most striking contributions at the Synod were about the plight of migrant and refugee families in many parts of the world.
“I found myself deeply moved on several occasions as we listened to accounts of families separated, grieving and oppressed because of war and persecution in their homelands.”
“An African bishop told us that massive numbers of refugees have poured into Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia. We heard from the Lebanon Patriarch about the on-going persecution which is driving Christian families from their homes in Syria and Iraq. We listened to stories of millions of families who continue to suffer because of the war in Ukraine,” he said.