Vatican City, 5 November 2013 (VIS) – In a press conference held in the Holy See Press Office this morning, Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, Bishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, and Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, Italy, respectively relator general, secretary general and special secretary of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, presented the preparatory document for the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “The pastoral challenges for the family in the context of evangelisation”, scheduled to be held in the Vatican from 5 to 19 October 2014.
Bishop Baldisseri explained that “the theme of this Synod … forms part of a work itinerary in two phases: the first is the Extraordinary General Assembly of 2014, which is intended to ascertain the status quaestionis and gather testimonies and proposals from the bishops to proclaim and credibly live the Gospel for the family; the second, the Ordinary General Assembly scheduled for 2015, which has the aim of finding working approaches for the pastoral of the human person and the family”.
He went on to mention that the process of preparing each Assembly “begins with a consultation between the various entities to be surveyed on the theme in question. In this case, however, the process develops according to particular methods, both because the synodal methodology is under general revision at present, and because it is an Extraordinary Assembly”.
With regard to methodological renewal, “the idea is that of transforming the synodal Institution into a real and effective tool for communion, through which the collegiality hoped for by the Vatican Council II is expressed and achieved. Indeed, with this aim it is the Holy Father's wish to strengthen also the activity of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in order that it may adequately perform its mission of promoting episcopal collegiality, cum Petro and sub Petro, in the governance of the Universal Church. This leads not only to changes to the synodal process of both a structural and methodological nature, but also to the functional adaptation of the General Secretariat, including of course the reconstitution of the physical spaces of its seat”.
With reference to the extraordinary nature of the next synodal Assembly, “this type of synod responds to the need to deal with a subject that, 'while also regarding the good of the Universal Church, requires rapid definition'. It is evident that the social and spiritual crisis of today's world has an impact on family life and creates a situation of genuine pastoral urgency, which justifies the convocation of an Extraordinary General Assembly”.
Cardinal Erdo observed that in the preparatory document, “the family appears as a reality that springs from the will of the Creator and that constitutes a social reality. It is not, therefore, a mere invention of human society or, much less, of some purely human power, but rather a natural reality that has been elevated by Christ the Lord in the context of divine grace. … The Document, just like the Church herself, closely connects the issue of the family with that of marriage”.
The Cardinal summarised all the questions considered in the test, from preparation for marriage and the evangelisation of couples and their families, to de facto unions without religious or civil recognition, to the situation of divorced and remarried Catholics and same-sex couples, as well as the procedures for the annulment of marriage. However, he affirmed that the entire questionnaire “is located within a higher context: beyond the problems that exist, it opens the horizons towards recognising the fact that the family is a true gift from the Creator to humanity”.
Finally, Archbishop Bruno Forte recalled that the approach for addressing the challenges of contemporary family life should be that which Blessed John XXIII noted in his diary shortly before the opening of Vatican Council II: “All is to be seen in the light of pastoral ministry: that is, in terms of souls to save and to edify”. He added, “It is not, therefore, a matter of debating doctrinal questions, which have in any case been clarified by the Magisterium recently … the invitation deriving from this for all the Church is to listen to the problems and expectations of many families today, manifesting her closeness and credibly proposing God's mercy and the beauty of responding to His call”.