Thursday, June 26, 2014
Pope Francis Thursday addressed two different groups, including a group of young astronomers from 23 different countries who are currently participating in a course organized by the Vatican Observatory School in Astrophysics in Castelgandolfo on the theme Galaxies: Near and Far, Young and Old. He also received members of ROACO, Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches, as they meet in plenary assembly and told them that he embraces all the Churches of the East and is close to their faithful, whose tears, fears and hopes are also ours. He also recalling the comfort, encouragement, and sense of responsibility he encountered during his recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The big news of the day is the publication of the Instrumentum Laboris for the October 2014 extraordinary synod on "The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization."

Each and every one of us is a member of a family we are children, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, sisters, brothers and for this reason alone, anything that concerns the family concerns us. And is doubly important when we learn that the Catholic Church is dedicating two synods - October 2014 and October 2015 to the family.

Read on for that story:


The Instrumentum Laboris for the October 2014 extraordinary synod on "The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization" was presented at a press conference this morning in the Holy See Press Office. Instrumentum laboris, Latin for "working instrument," is an official Vatican document containing a summary of responses to the special questionnaire sent out to the Church last fall. It summarizes information returned to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in preparation for an Ordinary Assembly that will take place one year later, in October 2015 at the Vatican.

We learn that this synod is so important that a Day of Prayer for the Synod will be held on Sunday September 28, 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. The synod, announced October 8, 2013, will go from October 5 to 19, 2014

In todays press conference, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops - the office that produced both the survey and document - reviewed some of the feedback received for the 39 questions examined in the survey. He said the questionnaire revealed that Catholics show scarce familiarity with Church teachings - the Magisterium - regarding marriage and family that suggests that greater emphasis must be placed on the preparation of pastoral care workers in different cultural and social contexts.

Other pastoral challenges, says a Vatican Radio summary, include crises of faith, inadequate marriage preparation, internal family pressures like addiction to drugs, alcohol and even social networks, and external economic, social and cultural factors such as jobs, unemployment, war, poverty, violence, migration and polygamy, which can negatively affect the family.

Unmarried couples, separated and divorced Catholics and their children; unwed mothers and unbelievers or agnostics wishing to be married in the Catholic Church, present further challenges that require openhearted and merciful pastoral care so that people are welcomed and no one is excluded.

Cardinal Baldisseri observed that a need was expressed to simplify and abbreviate marriage annulment procedures. And, compatible with its teaching, the Church is called to examine solutions that will help unmarried couples and remarried divorced people who can feel emarginated from the Church, to lead a serene and reconciled life.

On so-called same sex unions in the different legislative contexts, Cardinal Baldisseri said: 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.

An openess to life and the kind of responsible father- and mother-hood presented in the encyclical Humanae vitae were examined in the survey. The Instrumentum Laboris found many responses recommend that for many Catholics the concept of responsible parenthood encompasses the shared responsibility in conscience to choose the most appropriate method of birth control, according to a set of criteria ranging from effectiveness to physical tolerance and passing to a real ability to be practiced.

It also emerged that parents have trouble transmitting the faith to their children, particularly when faced with difficult family situations, and require greater pastoral support.

The results of this Octobers extraordinary Synod will be used to prepare the Instrumentum Laboris for the successive Ordinary Synod in October 2015 whose theme, Cardinal Baldisseri announced, will be Jesus Christ reveals the Mystery and Vocation of the Family.

SIR, Religious Information Service, offers the following summary of the press conference and the document:

The proclamation of the Gospel of the Family is an integral part of the mission of the Church, and the widespread cultural, social and spiritual crisis is posing a challenge in the Churchs work of evangelizing the family, the vital nucleus of society and the ecclesial community. So says the preface to the Instrumentum Laboris of the synod of the family, released today ahead of the Extraordinary General Assembly, the first event of the first synod convened by Pope Francis that will take place in October.

The preface says the main objective of the document, which gathers the testimonies and recommendations sent by the particular Churches in response to the questionnaire of the Preparatory Document made public last November, is offering support and guidance and proposing lifestyles marked by mercy, as the Pope has emphasized since the beginning of his pontificate.

The Istrumentum Laboris is divided into three parts and reflects the eight subjects treated in the questionnaire: the first part is devoted to the Gospel of the Family, the second treats various challenges and actual situations related to the pastoral care of the family and the third is devoted to openness to life and the responsibility of parents in the upbringing of their children characteristic of marriage between a man and a woman with particular reference to difficult pastoral situations.

The Church, reports the Instrumentum laboris, is called to provide care to those persons who are separated, divorced, or divorced and remarried; their number is very high in Europe and across America but much lower in Africa and Asia. The document also stresses another issue: it is the children of separated or divorced persons who bear the burden of conflict within marriage. There is also the issue of separated or divorced persons who remain faithful to their marriage vows; they are called the new poor and call for the Churchs attention in their situation, which is often lived in loneliness and poverty. There is also the matter of teen mothers who, alone, must care for their children and whose situation is often the result of much suffering and, very often, abandonment.

In all these situations, the Church must not assume an attitude of a judge who condemns, but that of a mother who always receives her children and nurses their wounds so they may heal, says the document. In line with the style of Pope Francis, with great mercy, the Church is called to find forms of accompaniment which can support her children on the path of reconciliation. With patience and understanding, it is important to explain to divorced and remarried persons that, the fact they are not able to celebrate the sacraments does not mean that they are excluded from the Christian life and a relationship with God.

There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to Gods plan for marriage and family. States the synod document. Nonetheless, men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. The Instrumentum Laboris reaffirms the traditional position of the Church on homosexual unions. Every bishops conference, the document states, voiced opposition to redefining marriage between a man and a woman through the introduction of legislation permitting a union between two people of the same sex.

Confronted with the gender ideology, the great challenge for the Church will be to develop a ministry that can maintain the proper balance between accepting persons in a spirit of compassion and gradually guiding them to authentic human and Christian maturity. The responses to the questionnaire, then, are clearly opposed to legislation that would allow the adoption of children by persons in a same-sex union, because there is a risk to the integral good of the child, who has the right to have a mother and father. However, when these people request a childs baptism, the latter must be received with the same care, tenderness and concern which is given to other children.

Following are links to the English and Spanish versions of the Instrumentum Laboris on the Vatican website.

English text here

Espaol text here

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