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21-10-2015 - Year XXII - Num. 184 

- Fidelity to the promise, a work of art
- The Circuli Minori conclude their examination of the Instrumentum Laboris
- Declaration by the director of the Holy See Press Office
- Audiences
- Other Pontifical Acts
- Listen to women, say auditors to Synod Fathers
- Audiences
Fidelity to the promise, a work of art
Vatican City, 21 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis held his usual Wednesdaygeneral audience in St. Peter's Square. In his catechesis, in which he revisited the theme of the family, he reflected on faithfulness and the promise of love between a man and a woman, on which the family is based, and which implies the promise to welcome and educate children, to care for elderly parents and the weakest members of the family, and to help each other to develop their own qualities and to accept their limitations.
“A family that closes up on itself is a contradiction, a mortification of the promise that brought it to life”, he said. “Never forget that the identity of the family is always a promise that extends and expands to all the family, and also to all humanity. … Love, like friendship, owes its strength and beauty to the fact that it generates a bond without curbing freedom. Love is free, the promise of the family is free, and this is its beauty. Without freedom there is no friendship, without freedom there is no love, without freedom there is no marriage. So, freedom and fidelity are not opposed to each other; on the contrary, they support each other, in terms of both interpersonal and social relationships. Indeed, think of the damage caused, in the civilisation of global communication, by the inflation of promises not kept, in various fields, and the indulgence for infidelity to the word given and to commitments made”.
“Being faithful to promises is a true work of art by humanity”, added Pope Francis. “No relationship of love – no friendship, no form of caring for another person, no joy of the common good – reaches the height of our desire and our hope, if it does not arrive at the point of inhabiting this miracle of the soul. And I use the word 'miracle', because the strength and persuasiveness of fidelity, in spite of everything, can only enchant and surprise us. … No school can teach the truth of love, if the family does not do so. No law can imposed the beauty or legacy of this treasure of human dignity, if the personal bond between love and generation does not inscribe it in our flesh”.
“Our fidelity to our promises is always entrusted to the grace and mercy of God. Love for the human family, in good times and bad, is a point of honour for the Church. May God enable us always to be worthy of this promise”.
The Circuli Minori conclude their examination of the Instrumentum Laboris
Vatican City, 21 October 2015 (VIS) – On Monday and Tuesday this week the Synod Fathers examined the third part of the Instrumentum Laboris, which deals with, among other themes, irregular family situations, admission of divorced and remarried faithful to communion, the pastoral care of homosexuals, and responsible parenthood.
The working groups analyses the special needs of families in irregular or difficult situations, acknowledging, as affirmed by the English-speaking group C whose rapporteur is Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge, that “those cohabiting are in a quite different situation from those who are divorced and civilly remarried. We also agreed that cohabitation, though very widespread in many cultures now, could not be considered a good in itself. We were prepared to recognise that there may be good in the relationship of those cohabiting rather than in cohabitation in some quasi-institutional sense”.
“We know that that are many other families who feel they are far from the ideal model, and others who to a greater or lesser extent do not even think it is for them”, comments the French group represented by Bishop Laurent Ulrich. “Divided families, mixed families, single parent families, families without marriage, even civil only; we cannot reject them, and we do not wish to think that their path does not lead them to God, Who loves and draws all people towards Him. We believe that in them we see the Spirit of the Lord Who inspires much of their behaviour in their lives, and this detracts nothing from Christian families whom we support and encourage”.
With regard to the divorced and civilly remarried, there is general agreement about the need to provide more effective pastoral accompaniment for these couples, and especially for their children who also have rights. Some groups express perplexity, however, in relation to what the Instrumentum Laboris refers to as a “a penitential path”. “It is not clear to name the journey taken by the divorced and remarried as a 'penitential path'”, remarks the Spanish-speaking group represented by Archbishop Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo. “Perhaps it would be better to speak about itineraries of reconciliation, as there are some irreversible situations that cannot be subject to a penitential path without the possibility of overcoming this”.
“It would appear that, with regard to the issue of closeness, we are all in agreement, but what happens when we consider access to the sacraments?” asked the Spanish-speaking group whose rapporteur is Cardinal Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan, O.A.R. “Without doubt, we need to set in motion a generous movement removing many of the obstacles from the way so that divorced and remarried faithful can participate more widely in the life of the Church: at the moment they cannot be godparents, they cannot be catechists, and they are not able to teach religion. … We must show that we are listening to the cry of many people who suffer and who call to participate as fully as possible in the life of the Church”.
“With regard to the discipline of remarried divorcees, at present it is not possible to establish general criteria covering all cases, which are very diverse”, observes the Italian group represented by Cardinal Maurizio Piacenza. “There are divorced and remarried faithful who apply themselves to following the path of the Gospel, offering significant witness of charity. At the same time, it is undeniable that in some circumstances, factors are present that limit the possibilities of acting differently. As a consequence, the judgement on an objective situation cannot be assumed in the judgement on subjective 'impunity'. The limits and conditions thus become an appeal to discernment – primarily on the part of the bishop – which must be accurate and respect the complexity of such situations”.
The English group A, whose rapporteur is Archbishop Joseph Edward Kurtz, expresses the view that “pastoral practice concerning admission to the Sacrament of the Eucharist by the divorced and civilly remarried ought not to be left to individual episcopal conferences. To do so would risk harm to the unity of the Catholic Church, the understanding of her sacramental order, and the visible witness of the life of the faithful”.
The English group represented by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin requests that “the Holy Father, taking into account the rich material which has emerged during this synodal process, consider establishing during the Jubilee Year of Mercy a Special Commission to study in depth the ways in which the disciplines of the Church which flow from the indissolubility of marriage apply to the situation of people in irregular unions, including situations arising from the practice of polygamy”.
There are many references to this issue in St. John Paul II's encyclical “Familiaris consortio”.
The condition of homosexual persons is considered primarily from the perspective of the family context. The English group C insists that “we address this issue as pastors, seeking to understand the reality of people's lives rather than issues in some more abstract sense”. The group also asks that “the final document include at an appropriate point a clear statement of Church teaching that same-sex unions are in no way equivalent to marriage”.
On the same issue, the English group A reiterates that “the Church as the spouse of Christ patterns her behaviour after the Lord Jesus, Whose all-embracing love is offered to every person without exception. Parents and siblings of family members with homosexual tendencies are called to love and accept these members of their family with an undivided and understanding heart”.
Some Fathers suggest that the issue be eliminated from the discussions in this Synod as its importance would call for a specific Synod on the matter.
The theme of responsible parenthood has given rise to lively exchange, and is of great current importance in relation to the dignity of the person and of life. The working groups also considered mixed marriage, and called for greater pastoral focus on the defence of women and children in precarious situations.
With regard to the Synod methodology, the French group represented by Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher writes, “like agronomists who talk about different methods of irrigation, we have talked about the method of our Synod. Is it well-suited to its purpose? We expend an enormous amount of energy, from all points of view. People are exhausted from the work they are doing. Will the result be worth the effort? Perhaps we could have identified some specific themes to examine between the two Synods, so as to have more time to study. Will Pontifical Commissions be appointed to carry out the work we hope will be done? … We have enjoyed the greater amount of time given to us in small groups. From our exchanges, there strongly emerges the ministry of communion that is ours as bishops”.
“The theme of mercy has run throughout the Synod, challenging our pastoral ministry”, concludes the Italian group B. “We are aware that the mystery of the Incarnation fully expresses the salvific will of God. This divine determination has also been entrusted to our mission and to the sacramental means that find their true hermeneutic in the sense of being an appeal to conversion, support, a medicine and an aid for our salvation”.
Declaration by the director of the Holy See Press Office
Vatican City, 21 October 2015 (VIS) – The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., issued the following statement this morning:
“The circulation of entirely unfounded news regarding the health of the Holy Father by an Italian newspaper is gravely irresponsible and unworthy of attention. Furthermore, as is clearly evident, the Pope is carrying out his very intense activity in an totally normal way”.
Subsequently, during a briefing on the Synod, he added the following further information:
“I fully confirm my previous statement, having verified the facts with the appropriate sources, including the Holy Father.
No Japanese doctor has visited the Pope in the Vatican and there have been no examinations of the type indicated in the article. The competent offices have confirmed that there have been no arrivals of external parties in the Vatican by helicopter; similarly, there were no arrivals of this type during the month of January.
I am able to confirm that the Pope is in good health.
I reiterate that the publication of this false information is a grave act of irresponsibility, absolutely inexcusable and unconscionable. It would be equally unjustifiable to continue to fuel similarly unfounded information. It is hoped, therefore, that this matter be closed immediately”.
Vatican City, 21 October 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, president of the Department for External Ecclesiastical Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow.
Other Pontifical Acts
Vatican City, 21 October 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:
- Fr. Henrique Aparecido De Lima, C.SS.R., as bishop of Dourados (area 38,125, population 535,000, Catholics 375,000, priests 59, permanent deacons 11, religious 154), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Toledo, Brazil in 1964, gave his religious vows in 1995 and was ordained a priest in 1999. He has served in a number of pastoral roles including parish vicar, pastor and administrator of the diocese of Jardim, and deputy provincial of the Redemptorists. He is currently superior of the Redemptorist Province of Campo Grande. He succeeds Bishop Redovino Rizzardo, C.S., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.
- Fr. Jose Reginaldo Andrietta as bishop of Jales (area 12,788, population 400,000, Catholics 323,000, priests 36, religious 15), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Pirassununga, Brazil in 1957 and ordained a priest in 1983. He holds a master's degree in catechesis from the Institut de Catechese et Pastorale Lumen Vitae in Brussels, Belgium and a licentiate in pastoral theology from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. He has served in a number of pastoral, academic and administrative roles in the diocese of Limeira, Brazil and in Brussels, Belgium, including parish vicar, parish priest, professor of pastoral theology and member of the presbyteral council. He is currently pastor of the “Sao Judas Tadeu” parish in Americana. He succeeds Bishop Luiz Demetrio Valentini, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.
- Msgr. Paulo Bosi Dal'Bo as bishop of Sao Mateus (area 15,496, population 469,000, Catholics 335,000, priests 46, religious 49), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Colatina, Brazil in 1962 and was ordained a priest in 2000. He holds a degree in accounting sciences and master's degrees in social communications and psychology of education. He has served in a number of roles in the diocese of Colatina, including director of the “Nossa Senhora Mae dos Pobres” house of formation, parish vicar and parish administrator, pastor, rector of the diocesan seminary and president of the Organisation of Seminaries and Philosophical and Theological Institutes in Brazil. He is currently vicar general of the diocese and parish priest.
20-10-2015 - Year XXII - Num. 183 

Listen to women, say auditors to Synod Fathers
Vatican City, October 2015 (VIS) – The role of the woman in the family, in society and in the Church, cultural differences, concerns regarding ethics in medicine, the situation of persecuted Christian families and the testimonies of those engaged in family catechesis were main themes of the interventions by auditors in the Synod Hall during the general congregations of Thursday 15 and Friday 16 October, published today.
The national president of the Catholic Women Organisation in Nigeria, Agnes Offiong Erogunaye, reminded the Synod Fathers that African women are known for taking care of their families with or without the contributions of their spouses, and the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria indicates the strength and role of “a typical woman and mother determined to keep her family together in the face of helplessness and calamity”. She added, “From my experience with women in this difficult moment, I can boldly say that although the man is the head of the family, the woman is however the heart of the family, and when the heart stops beating the family dies because the foundation is shaken and the stability destroyed. In Nigeria, Catholic women are not just homebuilders. They are a strong force to be reckoned with when it comes to spirituality and economy, and growth in the Church”.
Sister Maureen Kelleher from the United States of America quoted the paragraph in the Instrumentum laboris that states, “The Church must instil in families a sense of 'we' in which no member is forgotten. Everyone ought to be encouraged to develop their skills and accomplish their personal plan of life in service of the Kingdom of God”. She called upon the Church, “my family”, to “live up to the challenge to instil in our family the Church a sense of 'we', to encourage each person – male or female – to develop their skills to serve the Kingdom of God”. She added, “I ask our Church leaders to recognise how many women who feel called to be in service of the Kingdom of God but cannot find a place in our Church. Gifted though some may be, they cannot bring their talents to the tables of decision making and pastoral planning. They must go elsewhere to be of service in building the Kingdom of God. In 1974, at the Synod on Evangelisation, one of our sisters, Margaret Mary, was one of two nuns appointed from the Union of Superiors General. Today, forty years later, we are three”.
“The Church needs to listen to women … as only in reciprocal listening does true discernment function”, emphasised Lucetta Scaraffia, professor of Modern History at the University of Rome. “Women are great experts in the family: leaving abstract theories behind, we can turn in particular to women to understand what must be done, and how we can lay the foundations for a new family open to respect for all its members, no longer based on the exploitation on the capacity for sacrifice of the woman, but instead ensuring emotional nourishment and solidarity for all. Instead, both in the text and in the contributions very little is said about women, about us. As if mothers, daughters, grandmothers, wives – the heart of families – were not a part of the Church, of the Church who encompasses the world, who thinks, who decides. As if it were possible to continue, even in relation to the family, pretending that women do not exist. As if it were possible to continue to forget the new outlook, the previously unheard-of and revolutionary relationship that Jesus had with women”.
“Families throughout the world are very diverse, but in all of them the women play the most important and decisive role in guaranteeing that their solidity and duration. And when we speak about families, we should not speak always and only about marriage. There is a growing number of families composed of a single mother and her children. It is almost always women who stay by their children's side, even when they are ill, disabled or afflicted by violence. These women and mothers have seldom followed courses in theology, and often they are not even married, but they offer an admirable example of Christian behaviour. If you, Synod Fathers, do not pay attention to them, if you do not listen to them, you risk making them feel even more disgraced as their family is so different to the one you focus on. Indeed, you talk too readily of an abstract family, a perfect family that does not exist, a family that has nothing to do with the real families Jesus encountered or spoke about. Such a perfect family would almost seem not to be in need of His mercy or His Word: 'I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance'”.
The issue of mixed marriages also attracted attention, as mentioned by Rev. Fr. Garas Boulos Garas Bishay, pastor of St. Mary of Peace in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, who expressed his concern for a socio-cultural phenomenon widespread in tourist areas such as that of his parish: “mixed marriages between Christian girls and women from Russia and Europe, with Muslim boys and men (indeed, Islamic Shariah only allows Muslim men to marry women of other religions and never the contrary). Certainly this phenomenon, along with the mass demographic shift and a growing number of refugees and migrants who tend to settle in Europe, does not only affect countries with an Islamic majority or tourist areas, but will inevitably also affect the West and is therefore worthy of study and serious consideration. These are families with mixed morals and a dual cultural and religious affiliation. … It should not be forgotten that Islamic law permits polygamy and the Koran obliges the parents to the provide an Islamic education for the children. There is a profoundly different cultural and religious anthropology that may easily give rise to serious crises within the couple, even leading to irreparable fractures and grave consequences for the children”.
Maria Harries, Chair of Catholic Social Services in Australia, also spoke about cultural diversity, providing the example of the very marginalised Aboriginal people, which comprise many language groups and family traditions. “For most of them, the idea of the family as it is represented by our Church teaching is alien. For some, the matrilineal system means that they have many mothers. The child is reared in a kinship group, not by a mother and father. Women play a dynamic role in their kinship world and they expect them to be visible. In the words of one of the aboriginal leaders, 'By not having women visible on the Altar and in the life of the Church, we are concealing our mothers, our sisters and our daughters from view'. In welcoming the Gospel, they ask not to be recolonised by our Church as they have been by our nation's forebears. The challenge for our Church is to formally and institutionally incorporate cross-cultural dialogue and adopt systems with indigenous Australians that honour and do not violate their culture”.
Harries, who has worked for forty years with people who have experienced sexual abuse in the family and for the last twenty with those who have been abused by members of the clergy, affirmed that “all sexual abuse is connected to the abuse of power. … The horrific evidence of abuse of children in families and institutions and our failure to respond adequately to this has left the Church in Australia and of course elsewhere in very deep pain. … In the words of Pope Francis, as we all pray for and 'receive the grace of shame', we need local and collective ways of meeting all these victims and their families and each other in our garden of agony and to listen deeply, very deeply. From our failings and the accompanying pain, we have the opportunity to learn collectively and perhaps even doctrinally, and to re-engage with and accompany the thousands of families whom we have lost”.
Brenda Kim Nayoug spoke of what is referred to in South Korea as the “Sampo generation”, or rather, the generation that chooses to forego courtship, marriage and childbirth. “Many of the young generation have given up these three things because of their social pressures and economic problems. There are so many young people who are suffering due to unemployment, they unfortunately postpone their marriage, and forget that marriage is a calling given by God. Dear Fathers”, she exclaimed, “married life is a long journey. There might be lots of possibilities to get lost or to be wounded on their journey of life, therefore the Church should open up and truly accompany us at the various stages of our married life, so that we do not give up but instead find for ourselves the beauty of the Christian family”.
A recurrent theme in the interventions was that of married sexuality and ethics in medicine. The Peruvian paediatrican Edgar Humberto Tejada Zeballos remarked that “there are couples who believe that having a child is a right, without considering that children are a gift from God, and resort to measures that aside from violating morality, cost innocent lives, such as in vitro fertilisation, in which many embryos are eliminated, burned, frozen or sold. They also consider practices such as surrogacy and other means that … denying morality, cause the sacrifice of a great number of embryos without mercy or use them in experiments. Holy Father, I believe that in the working document, in paragraphs 140 and 141 these threats to life and to the family could be mentioned clearly, to transmit this knowledge to many Christians who commit these immoral acts out of ignorance”.
Massimo and Patrizia Paloni, a married couple from Rome and members of the Neocatechumenal Way, are the parents of twelve children and are currently in mission in Holland to announce the Gospel to the “existential peripheries of Europe”. They expressed their gratitude to Paul VI for the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which helped them understand that “responsible parenthood is not about deciding the number of children, but rather about being aware of the greatness of the vocation to collaborate with God in the creation of sons and daughters for eternity”, adding that “every day around us we see suffering, separations, abortions, and lonely people without hope. The world is awaiting the witness of the Christian family, and we are convinced that the salvation of humanity is through the Christian family. … The Christian community saves the family, and the family saves the Church”.
Sister Berta Maria Porras Fallas of Costa Rica insisted on the need for formation for “vocational realisation”, and proposed three priorities in youth pastoral ministry. “First, love in discernment, with the themes of formation for discernment and discerning the mission. Secondly, loving as a couple, man and woman, with the analysis of current issues. And finally, loving as sexual giving, with the theme of human sexuality as a gift, conjugal love and daring to love”.
Finally, the Marqus-Odeesho couple, on behalf of families in Iraq, told how the Christians of Nineveh have found themselves having to leave their homes, jobs, memories, possessions and schools overnight. “The new experience was very harsh”, they said. “Only the words of our Lord Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew – 'Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven' – condole us and relieve our wounds; thus we started to hear testimonies of some displaced families giving their experience, saying that despite the suffering and harshness of displacement, getting closer to the Church helped them lot and they started to feel that their faith was strengthening and maturing, and they began sharing in spiritual activities. … Today the challenges continue through events such as kidnapping, bombing, robbery and terror. But in spite of this situation there are still many families who are committed to their land and their Church, giving testimony to their faith without realising that this persecution will bring a lot of good to the Church of Christ, as it did for the early Church, in spreading the good news”.
Vatican City, 20 October 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in separate audiences:
- Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, major archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malabars, India.
- His Beatitude Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt.