In the News 2014

Pope Francis’s first synod attracts huge media interest

On the eve of the Synod on the Family which Pope Francis opens tomorrow with an inaugural mass in the Basilica of St Peter’s, Synod secretary general Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisserri yesterday focused on the Greek roots of the word synod, namely “synodos”. Literally, this means “walk together”.

However, as the 191 Synod fathers (cardinals and bishops) plus 61 experts including Holy See collaborators, “fraternal delegates” (other churches) and “uditori” (lay speakers) prepare to set out on their walk together, not everyone is present and correct. Asked yesterday why dissident Catholic movements such as “Wir Sind Kirche”, “Catholic Church Reform International”, “Catholics For Choice” etc, had not been invited to participate, Cardinal Baldisseri said that “this is a Synod for the Bishops, at which some lay people participate . . .”

Called to address the question of “The Pastoral Challenges of The Family in the Context of Evangelisation”, this Synod has attracted unprecedented secular press interest. The reason for the huge media interest is simple enough – for much of the next two weeks, the Synod fathers will be talking sex as they deal with the impact on the family of issues such as same- sex marriage, homosexuality, clerical celibacy, contraception, marriage annulment, in vetro fertilisation and more besides.

Publicly sparring

In short, the Synod Bishops will be looking at the hairy reality of the modern gulf between Catholic Church doctrine and the daily practise of many Catholic faithful. Even if Synods traditionally have but a limited impact on Church life and none whatsoever on Church teaching, there are hopes that this Synod, the first under Pope Francis, will be different.

The fact that different sides of the Catholic house have been publicly sparring over the last few weeks only underlines the point. Conservative Cardinals such as the Australian George Pell, the German Ludwig Muller and the American Raymond Burke have taken a hardline, no-change approach, producing an eve of Synod book, Remaining In The Truth Of Christ.

Catholics for Choice