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Broad horizons

· Pope Francis closes the Synod on the family by recalling that the Church’s first duty is not to hand out condemnations but to proclaim mercy ·

A Church with broader horizons and which does not “rubberstamp”, but instead “draws from the sources of her faith living waters to refresh parched hearts”. This is the “vivid image” which, according to Francis, emerged during the three weeks of work of the Synod on the family, which concluded on Sunday, 25 October, with the Mass celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica.

In both his address on Saturday afternoon during the final general congregation, and in his homily the following day, the Pontiff reviewed the principal steps of the Synod assembly, whose final report had been consigned to him after being voted on and garnering the nearly unanimous approval of the Synod Fathers.

The Synod, the Pope stated, certainly “was not about settling all the issues having to do with the family”, and “surely it was not about finding exhaustive solutions for all the difficulties and uncertainties”. However, the assembly’s approach of listening and open discussion showed “the vitality of the Catholic Church, which is not afraid to stir dulled consciences or to soil her hands”. It also showed a willingness to cast light on present realities “so as to kindle the flame of faith and enlighten people’s hearts in times marked by discouragement, social, economic and moral crisis, and growing pessimism”, bearing witness that “for the Church, the Gospel continues to be a vital source of eternal newness, against all those who would ‘indoctrinate’ it in dead stones to be hurled at others”.

Pope Francis emphasized that “the Church is a Church of the poor in spirit and of sinners seeking forgiveness, not simply of the righteous and the holy”. He once again called for “rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints, so as to defend and spread the freedom of the children of God, and to transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible”.

In short, he explained, “the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness”.

The first duty of the Church, therefore, “is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy”, and “to lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord”. Now “is a time of mercy”, he affirmed in the homily during the closing Mass, inviting the bishops and the entire Christian community to continue the journey undertaken, while “never allowing ourselves to be tarnished by pessimism or sin”.

The final document

The Pope’s closing address 

Homily at the closing Mass of the Synod




St. Peter’s Square

Aug. 22, 2019