· Reports of the circuli minores are presented ·
On the Friday morning, 9 October, the Synod Fathers prayed at the Hour of Terce. Patriarch Sako delivered a homily expressing heartfelt gratitude to Pope Francis on behalf of all the Synod Fathers present. The reflection given by the Patriarch of Babylon for Chaldeans, who spoke of the “challenge of faith” which “involves the shepherds as much as the faithful”, was inspired by the Pope’s appeal for peace in the Middle East and Africa. Sako noted that today, “unfortunately, many Christians are ashamed of their faith”, when instead they should be living it with courage in their “everyday lives”. In this sense it may be useful for everyone to listen to the experiences of persecuted Iraqi Christians.
After the prayer, the Assembly — meeting for their fourth General Congregation under Delegate President Cardinal Damasceno Assis, in the presence of 266 Synod Fathers — prepared to listen to the reports of the circuli minores. The reports showed the Fathers to be seeking a simpler language for the final document, a language that is direct and engaging, and that sheds light not only on the challenges and problems that the family faces in the world, but also and most importantly the beauty and hope that is sowed every day by families who are living in the light of the Gospel.
This was visible in nearly all thirteen of the reports, which were summaries of the work of the circuli minores which — divided into four languages (French, English, Italian and German) — came together on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss and propose appropriate modifications to the first part of the Instrumentum Laboris.
With the adjustments and additions of the individual propositions to the document, drawn up by Fathers, the Synod has reached its first key step. The Commission will now work with these results to prepare the final report.
Archbishop Kurtz, the relator of the English Circle “A”, was the first to speak. He said that confidence in Jesus Christ “is to be the first and last word of the synod”. The working group proposed focusing more on a positive message and the signs of renewal that are encountered today. One of the suggestions pays particular attention to the theme of families who are forced to emigrate and to those who experience pain and disability. In this sense, the group aimed to highlight the role of public policy and recommended using a tone the is more “global” and less “Euro-centric”.
An invitation was also made in the speech given by Archbishop Chaput, the relator of English Circle “D”, who said that the Instrumentum Laboris displays a vision that is “overwhelmingly Western”. The group highlighted issues that they felt were not given enough attention, and also pointed to unclear and uncertain elements in the English translation of the document. They called for the use of a more engaging and appealing language, and the need to highlight positive aspects. Hence the suggestion was made to reverse Section ii with Section i of the document, in order to begin with a message of hope.
In agreement with the other relators, Fr Arroba Conde, cmf, relator of Italian Circle “A”, spoke of the spirit of collaboration that has been breathed into working groups: an awareness of differing opinions, but a sincere desire to promote that which unites them. He spoke of awareness that “is more complementary than conflicting”. In the details of the group’s proposals, it was again suggested that the document begin with a positive note. One of the goals the relator listed was to formulate a “Gospel of the family” as a cultural proposal offered to everyone. Particular attention was given to issues of gender ideology, secularisation and to the problems of human trafficking and migration.
“We can only give thanks” for all of the “families who try to make God’s dream their dream”, said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the relator of English Circle “B”. In particular, this working group called for greater use of biblical references to facilitate clearer and more compelling understanding, stating that the language of scripture “can become a bridge between faith and life”.
A language that touches upon the real problems of the family was also called for by French Circle “A”: Archbishop Laurent Ulrich, the relator, said that the text should have a more open tone and promote dialogue with peers.
Self-criticism over family ministry (“What have we forgotten to do?") was heard from Cardinal Lacunza Maestrojuán, the relator of Spanish Circle “A”. One of the key points to emerge from his group was the invitation to learn more about the cultures, and to focus on formation, not merely stopping at the norms.
In addition to the request for a more simplified text and the addition of more biblical references, Cardinal Piacenza, the relator of Italian Circle “B”, drew attention to themes such as: the equal dignity of man and woman, the need to reiterate the Church’s positive outlook on sexuality, further education on integral ecology, and the demand for pastoral care specifically for migrant families.
Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge, the relator of English Circle “C”, highlighted the fact that “the Church does not inhabit a world out of time” and the need to address the facts of history with eyes of faith. The key issue for this group was to clarify that the family is based on the “the marriage of a man and a woman”, and expressed the need to propose this “positive and luminous” reality to the world with a more “accessible” language.
Fr Dumortier, the relator of French Circle “B”, spoke of the family as a “school of humanity”. The group also suggested magisterial participation on issues addressed by the Synod.
In favour of opting for a language of hope, showing “a Church that says ‘yes’”, Archbishop Porras Cardozo, the relator of Spanish Circle “B”, emphasized the importance of formation (“if faith is weak it is difficult to respond to the challenges”) and of a transition “from an individual spirituality to that of communion”.
A methodological point was offered by Archbishop Heiner Koch, the relator of German Circle “A”, who suggested taking cultural difference into account. He said that there must be a “differentiated analysis in order to contribute to an exchange in the universal Church”. The goal, said Archbishop Durocher, the relator of French Circle “C”, should be to answer two questions: “What is the family?” and “What does the family do?”. He pointed out the need for a clear analysis, saying that the “pastoral needs must be grounded in reality”. This group called for vigilance and commitment with regards to the widespread gender theory and to distortions of bioethical technologies.
Bishop Brambilla, relator of Italian Circle “C”, was the last of the interventions. By reiterating the importance of integrating the many perspectives that come from different parts of the world, he invited the Fathers to always decipher the challenges of society and contemporary culture in a positive way, highlighting the positive points and not allowing them to be crushed by diagnosis that favour the shadows.
At the end of the Congregation, the some of the Synod Fathers began speaking about the second part of Instrumentum Laboris.