Synod of Family to Begin in Rome on Monday

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
2 Oct 2015

The 2014 Synod - preparation for this year's synod

Delegates from around the world are arriving in Rome for the start of the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family.

The theme of the Synod is the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.

Last year Pope Francis called a Synod to prepare for this year to "continue the reflection of the journey of the whole Church".

However there was much vigorous debate over issues like homosexuality and divorce.

Some commentators referred to this as a divide between the more "conservative" African bishops and the "progressive" German bishops.

Pope Francis later said some media coverage was "often in the style of sports or political chronicles".

While many issues will be discussed at the Synod the contemporary crisis of marriage and the family, pastoral responses to challenges like divorced couples and those in homosexual unions receiving Holy  Communion and contraception will be significant issues and are considered "hot button issues".

However the Archbishop of Sydney, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP  believes the Synod must start with the positives, with the vision splendid about marriage, rather than focusing all its attention on the headline-grabbers such as same-sex "marriage" and Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried.

"We must not let the New York Times dictate the terms to a Synod of Bishops for the Catholic Church," he said.

Pope Francis asked everyone last year to "speak openly" - and they did

"Hopefully the Synod will be remembered for presenting the beauty of Christian teaching on sexuality, marriage, and family, and positive pastoral strategies for recovering an appreciation for them in our culture and among our faithful; for supporting people in embracing and living marriage well; and for recommending to all things that have worked on the ground for some.

"With a rich, positive, theological framework in mind, the Synod will be able to offer the Church in various localities ideas on assisting would-be married couples and already-married couples to live out their vocations and create "domestic churches" in which their children can grow in Christian holiness. Having addressed the central case, the Synod can then reach out to those on the peripheries of family life or in irregular situations with various ideas on how they too can be more closely united to Christ. In the end a Catholic Synod on marriage - as opposed to a secular, academic talkfest - must start and finish with "the Marriage of the Lamb", the marriage of Christ to his bride the Church and how we might be conformed to that marriage; must start and finish with "the Family of God", our adoption by Word and Sacrament, by Grace and Virtue, into the family of God the Father and the communion of saints. Start there and only then reflect on contemporary challenges, and many creative and effective pastoral strategies will follow," the Archbishop said.

In a recent preview of Synod 2015, George Weigel, author and senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Centre in Washington DC said he hopes the Synod does not bog down over a narrow set of questions of primary concern to northern European bishops who represent local churches that have not fully embraced the New Evangelisation.

"The problem these bishops wrestle with are real; I hope the Synod fraternally challenges those bishops to embrace the truth of the Gospel, rather than the further deconstruction of the faith, as the beginning g of a serious pastoral response to their challenges," Weigel said.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP hopes the Synod will start and build on the positives and not be dictated by media reports

He also said he hoped the Synod heeds the oft-repeated of Pope Francis and does not produce a final report that reads like the work of an international non-governmental organisation but hopes the Synod summons the courage and humility to "confess that the Church's own failures to speak words of persuasive truth to the cultural tsunami of the sexual revolution are a significant factor in the crisis of marriage and the family around the world today".

Some commentators have predicted Synod 2015 could well be "the most combustible event in Francis' third year as Pope" mainly because the Pope has encouraged an open debate.

After the Synod makes its recommendations, Pope Francis is expected to write a post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

The Bishop of Darwin, the Most Rev Eugene Hurley DD and Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane will attend as Australian delegates to  Synod 2015.

The full interview with Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP can be found at