Press Briefing on Synod, Day 9

(Vatican Radio) 14 Oct. At the daily press briefing for the Synod on the Family an African Cardinal said that polygamy was much more of a problem in Africa than divorce and remarriage. Spokesman for Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, was joined by Cardinals Vincent Nichols of Britain, Phillippe Ouedraogo from Burkina Faso and Rubén Salazar Gomez from Colombia.

Cardinal Ouedraogo told the media that in Europe divorce and remarriage was a real concern for Synod delegates but, in Africa, polygamy was a much more pressing problem. He said that the authors of the Instrumentum Laboris tended towards highlighting Western problems but that the African delegates have spoken about their problems assertively in the small working groups.

The delegates assembled for a plenary session at the Synod on Wednesday morning. They listened to reports of the small group work that has taken place over the last two days. Interventions then began on the third part of the working document, Instrumentum Laboris.

Many groups reported that they thought more Scripture should be used to help families understand their mission and vocation. A number of reports stated that the “indissolubility of marriage” needs to be framed in more positive language – it is not a burden but something that is hopeful and joyful. Some groups advocated for the development of catechetical and prayer resources for families.

Other topics reported on were the importance and role of women in family and the Church as well as the scourge of violence against women, the question of why young people today delay or are afraid to commit to each other in matrimony, and the tension between God’s mercy and justice. One of the delegates said that it was God’s mercy that opened up the way for salvation and this should not be forgotten. In the German-speaking group, Cardinal Nichols reported, there was unanimous agreement on the need to explore more deeply, holding both equally, the pastoral concepts of justice and mercy.

One of the groups stated that the Church had a theology of marriage, which focussed heavily on morality, but that there was no integrated theology of the family.

There were numerous requests from the working groups for a magisterial document after the Synod. It is not clear if there will be one. Pope Francis has not indicated his intention in this regard. Cardinal Nichols said that a document would be “an expression of collegiality and primacy.” There will be a report presented to the Holy Father by the delegates at the Synod but whether the Pope will publish it immediately or amend it first is not clear.

Cardinal Salazar said that the Synod was an extremely important moment for the Catholic Church because we are “trying to listen to the voices of families, in all their forms, especially broken families.” He went on to say that all the delegates wanted to “show forth the beauty of family” to the Church and the world. He added that many divergent opinions have been expressed freely in the small group work.

Cardinal Nichols said that listening to the Church’s experience in other parts of the world was very enriching and gave the Synod Fathers a much broader perspective. He said that a good example of this was how they learnt that marriage in Africa was not between two individuals but two families; this made it a a social event in which the local community is involved. “In the UK marriages tend to be private, personal affairs,” he remarked.

Asked about the “ideological colonisation” by the West of places like Africa, Cardinal Nichols said that this theme was not as strong as it was in the Extraordinary Synod in 2014. He said that it made him reflect on how, even in the United Kingdom, ideological colonisation takes place. He gave the example of UK citizens who tried to bring a non-EU member spouse into the UK and could not do so. “There are policies that are militant and against marriage in Britain too,” he said.

The three Cardinals were asked if there was a “stale-mate” in the Synod because of the divergent views that emerged. They all replied “definitely not.” The said that there were divergent views but that there was also lots of debate. The agreed that it was moving along very well despite the fact that delegates were feeling tired because the daily order is very full.

Nichols added that the letter, which was widely reported on, written to the Pope by some prelates expressing concern over the process of the Synod, did “not have any effect on the Synod.”

Fr. Lombardi told the briefing that the Synod delegates would continue to present interventions on the third part of Instrumentum Laboris on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday

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