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Irish bishops must take Synod discussion forward

By Sarah Mac Donald - 24 October, 2014

Archbishop Martin at opening Mass for Rome Synod

Archbishop Martin at opening Mass for Rome Synod

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, who represented the Irish Church at the Extraordinary Synod on the family in Rome, has said he voted for every paragraph in the synod document.

In an interview with RTE’s Morning Ireland programme on Thursday, the Archbishop said in total he voted 60 times.

“I voted in favour of every paragraph. However, there was a real difficulty on some of the paragraphs – you could have voted ‘no’ because you felt they weren’t saying enough but then that could have given an even more negative image,” he told the programme.

Asked if he was disappointed or satisfied with how things ended in the Vatican last weekend, Dr Martin said “Neither”.

He underlined that the synod is a process and that it was now up to the Irish bishops “to take that discussion forward”.

He suggested that in the wake of the synod, the attitude of some of the prelates would be less harsh towards the divorced and remarried and LGBT people.

“The temperature is changing in the attitude of the church towards both homosexuals and people who are divorced and remarried,” he said.

But he added that in a gathering of such a large number – 190 bishops from different parts of the world and from different backgrounds – the pendulum swings one direction and another.

The Primate of Ireland said the document that was presented at the end of the Extraordinary Synod now comes back to the churches in the different parts of the world to be discussed.

Of Pope Francis, the Archbishop said the Pontiff listened and encouraged people to speak. “He is like a father in a large and contentious family. He knows that you won’t arrive at a consensus and progress by saying to any group ‘you shut up – you can’t speak…’”

The Archbishop said things were said at the synod in this open atmosphere and yet this caused one bishop to comment to him, ‘The pope just has to intervene. We can’t have this going on.’

Extraordinary SynodHe admitted that most of the prelates “have difficulty in understanding Pope Francis – Francis is an extraordinarily complex person,” he observed.

“He came to the synod and he began by saying, ‘Look I got a letter after the conclave of the cardinals in which they said there were some people who were not able to express themselves because the pope was present. I don’t want that to happen here.’”

Archbishop Martin said it was very clear the Pope wants to reach out to people in the reality of their situations and to understand their situations and dialogue with them.

Recalling the discussion of the positive aspects in cohabitation at the Synod, Dr Martin said this was “revolutionary language in the church” although some people felt that this was basically “canonising cohabitation”.

Rejecting that, he said what the Pope is saying is let’s look at the reality and the struggles of people; let’s look at people who may be living together, not married, with children – what are their aspirations and what are their hopes – they are not very far away in many cases from catholic teaching.”

On the issue of the Church’s attitude to gays, the Archbishop said that on a number of occasions it had been said during the Synod that some of the language used by the church should not be used again.

“I really feel that after the discussion at the Synod it will not be possible to do that.”

Referring to some “very strong people who used strong expressions” and raised “strong concerns” on this matter, the Archbishop said they “are a smaller group”.

He also commended the ability of Pope Francis to recognise that most of us live in the grey areas of life and that “everything isn’t just black and white for us and we have to find a way of being a church in which you do that.”

Referring to the Pope’s address at the end of the Synod, Archbishop Martin recalled that the Pontiff talked about the temptation to hostile inflexibility which wants to close oneself within the written word.

He also raised concerns about the temptation to neglect the teachings of the church; and at the same time the temptation to neglect reality.

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