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Synod of bishops gets underway in the Vatican

By Sarah Mac Donald - 06 October, 2015

Pope Francis and Cardinal Pietro Parolin

Pope Francis and Cardinal Pietro Parolin

Pope Francis addressed the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Monday morning, the first full day of sessions, and told the nearly 300 delegates that the Synod also is a protected space in which the Church experiences the action of the Holy Spirit.

He said the Church was taking up once again the dialogue begun with the announcement of the extraordinary Synod on the family, and evaluating and reflecting on the text of the Instrumentum laboris.

The Synod is a journey undertaken together in the spirit of collegiality and synodality, in which participants bravely adopt parrhesia, pastoral zeal and doctrinal wisdom, frankness, and always keep before our eyes the good of the Church and of families the Pontiff said.

He also underlined that the Synod was neither a convention, nor a parliament or senate, where people make deals and reach compromises.

“In the Synod, the Spirit speaks by means of every person’s tongue, who lets himself be guided by the God who always surprises, the God who reveals himself to little ones, who hides from the knowing and intelligent; the God who created the law and the Sabbath for man and not vice versa; by the God, who leaves the 99 sheep to look for the one lost sheep; the God who is always greater than our logic and our calculations.”

He warned the prelates and observers that the Synod would be a space for the action of the Holy Spirit only if the participants vest themselves with “apostolic courage, evangelical humility and trusting prayer”.

Apostolic courage, he said, which refuses to be intimidated in the face of the temptations of the world nor the petrification of some hearts, which, despite good intentions, drive people away from God.

He called for apostolic courage that brings life and does not make Christian life a museum of memories; as well as evangelical humility that knows how to empty itself of conventions and prejudices in order to listen to brother bishops and be filled with God – humility that leads neither to finger-pointing nor to judging others, but to hands outstretched to help people up without ever feeling oneself superior to them.

Also on the first day of the Synod, Cardinal Peter Erdo of Budapest, relator general, summarised the main themes of the working document to be discussed by the bishops and addressed some of the major issues before the Synod Fathers.

In his address, Cardinal Erdo set a conservative tone warning that Catholics who are divorced and remarried cannot be admitted to Communion as long as they remain in a second union.

He said that while the Church must show mercy to those whose marriages have failed, the acceptance of Christ’ mercy “demands conversion.”

In the case of Catholics who have entered into a second marriage, he said, the rule barring reception of Communion is not an “arbitrary prohibition” but a recognition of the “objective truth” that their living arrangement is contrary to the Gospel.

Cardinal Erdo said that divorced and remarried Catholics should be encouraged to take an active role in the life of the Church, but that is “different from admission to the Eucharist.”

He also rejected the idea that gay relationships can be treated as similar to marriages.

The Hungarian prelate appeared to dismiss the calls for “gradualism” in pastoral practice for the divorced and remarried stating that “Between truth and falsehood, between good and bad, there is no law of gradualism.”

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