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Vatican Releases Working Document for Family Synod

family collageAll of the hot-button issues of the day, from same-sex marriage to remarried divorcees, is on the agenda at the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family, according to the newly released Instrumentum Laboris.

According to the Vatican Information Service, the new working document was released during a press conference in Rome today and outlines the subjects to be discussed at the Synod, which will take place from October 5-19, 2014. The synod will focus on “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization.”

During the press briefing, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, said the Instrumentum Laboris is divided into three parts, with the first part dedicated to the "Gospel of the family" which is God's plan for families, biblical and magisterial knowledge of that plan, the natural law, and the vocation of the person in Christ.

“The difficulties that arise in relation to natural law can be overcome through more attentive reference to the biblical world, to its language and narrative forms," the Cardinal said as well as to the possibility of reinterpreting the natural law in a more meaningful way.

"Furthermore, the role of the family, 'fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another', is that of a privileged space for values such as fraternity, love, respect and solidarity between generations, where dignity is promoted, overcoming individualism and contributing to the common good of society.”

The second part of the document relates to the pastoral challenges inherent in the family, such as the crisis of faith, critical internal situations, external pressures and other problems. This will include addressing the responsibilities of pastors regarding marriage preparation.

Cardinal Baldisseri emphasised that special consideration would be given to difficult pastoral situations, such as unmarried couples who live together and de facto unions, separated and divorced couples, remarried divorcees and eventual further children, single mothers, those who are in canonically irregular situations and non-believers or non-practicing Catholics who wish to marry”.

Regarding the phenomenon of unmarried couples who live together and de facto unions, “the Church has the duty to accompany these couples in the trust that they are able to bear a responsibility, such as that of marriage, that is not too great for them,” Cardinal Baldisseri said.

In relation to the question of remarried divorcees, whose irregular condition within the Church is a source of suffering, the Instrumentum Laboris “offers real knowledge of their situation, from which the Church is required to find solutions compatible with her teaching and which lead to a serene and reconciled life. In this respect, the need to simplify the judicial procedures for the annulment of marriage would appear relevant”.

“Regarding same-sex unions, a distinction is made between the contexts in which civil legislation is more or less in favor; there is a need for pastoral care on the part of the particular Churches in these situations, including matters relating to children who may be present," the Cardinal said.

The third part of the document deals with themes linked to openness to life, such as knowledge and difficulties in receiving the teachings of the Magisterium, pastoral suggestions, and the promotion of a mentality that is open to life. It will also include the transmission of faith to children through parents and Christian education within families in difficult situations.

Given the importance of the Synod, a Day of Prayer for the Synod will be held on Sunday 28 September, and the Eucharist will be celebrated every day during the work of the Synod in the Salus Populi Romanii Chapel in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome.

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