In today’s press briefing, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., said the Synod Fathers are continuing the work begun last year and reiterated that Catholic doctrine on marriage will not be called into question.
According to Vatican Radio, Father Lombardi told reporters that “The Holy Father thought it important to say that what we are doing here must be seen as a continuation of last year.” And because “Catholic doctrine on marriage was not called into question in the previous sitting of the Synod” it won’t be called into question now either.
He also said that “the Synod is not about one single issue – Eucharist for the divorced and remarried – but many issues and we must take them all into account.”
Father Lombardi went on to list the various subjects covered in yesterday’s group sessions which included the passing on of the faith inter-generationally, migration, domestic violence, war, poverty, polygamy.
Father Thomas Rosica, who is the English-speaking Media Attaché of the Holy See, told the press that various Synod Fathers made comments during the session, with each being allowed to speak for only three minutes in order to “foster clarity.”
Some Fathers said there was an over emphasis on the problems the family faces with one suggesting that the Synod acknowledge the “beauty and joy” of family life.
“Some of the interventions suggested we should be more inclusionary in our language, especially in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Gay persons are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, neighbors and colleagues,” Rosica said.
“There was also a suggestion that the third form of penance, general absolution, be used widely in the Year of Mercy,” said Rosica. He pointed out and clarified that these were suggestions which “might be considered by the Fathers.”
According to Philippa Hitchen, who is reporting for Vatican Radiom the Fathers then broke into small groups for further discussion. These groups include lay men an women and non-Catholic representatives – with everyone sharing ways to uphold Church teaching while remaining relevant.
“On the subject of vocabulary, there’s been lots of talk about the use of language that won’t alienate people who are thirsting to hear the word of God,” Hitchen writes.
“Several participants warned strongly against a language of exclusion, especially when talking about people living in second marriages or in same-sex relationships. While we easily agree on sensitive, inclusive language to talk about victims of violence, the poor, or other marginalized people, we haven’t yet found consensus on a language to describe gay people as part of our own family, our own brothers and sisters.”
At the end of the press briefing, reporters pressed the issue of whether or not divorced and remarried Catholics will be admitted to Communion, asking if it was still “open” for discussion.
“It is open on a pastoral level but remember what the Pope said about doctrine,” said Archbishop Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council of Social Communication.
When asked if the reception of the Eucharist by divorced and remarried persons was a “doctrine or a discipline” Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, replied saying that different people may see this differently and that it was part of the work of the Synod to discuss this.
All of the bishops agree that there is a gap between contemporary culture and Church teaching and are searching for ways to enter into dialogue with the world.
“We need to speak about what the Church teaches but must also avoid a ghetto mentality,” said Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec.
Archbishop Durocher has floated the possibility of allowing women to become deacons as this position is ordered toward ministry rather than the priesthood.
When asked whether or not the Pope would participate in any small group discussions, Father Lombardi said this was not planned, but that this was a Pope of surprises, so “he may also surprise us!”
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