Flowing from the tenderness of God is the mission of the family, a primary announcer of the Good News both within the family and beyond.
Guided by theWord of God, the Magisterium and the ongoing promptings of the Holy Spirit and sustained by the Sacrament of Matrimony, families are helped to be missionary disciples of God’s love and mercy wherever they are.The mission of the family embraces spousal love, education of children, faithfully living out the sacrament, the preparation of other couples for marriage, the accompaniment in friendship and dialogue of those couples or families facing difficulties, and participation in the communal life of the Church. Opening themselves to needs near and far, families know how to incarnate these words of Pope Francis: “Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others… and enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness. Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated and we experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people” (Evangelii Gaudium, 270).”
While the gift of faith is received into the lives of a family through the culture of that family, that faith also helps to shape culture. Every family has roots in culture and the Christian family has a responsibility to inform culture with the Good News. To this end, the Church rightly exhorts all governments to promote religious freedom, which includes not only the right to worship, but also the right to express matters of conscience, to participate in civic affairs, and to serve others in a manner consistent with our faith and mission.
Powerful in the lives of those who wed and those who witness is the gift of the Wedding Liturgy. We examined the power of the Wedding Ceremonies in which both rite and homily can have valuable impact as well as the lifelong witness of Christian families.
Truly important is the preparation of couples for marriage as well as its on going formation and support. This formation needs to be grounded in biblical theology, Christian anthropology and Church teachings. Of special note was our discussion on proper sex education based on an authentically Christian understanding of sexuality. Programs of sex education should emphasize conscience formation, the sense of responsibility, the value of self-control, modesty and the virtue of chastity. In addition,it was agreed that the role of parents in the sex education of their children must be emphasized. They are the first and primary teachers of their children and they should be supported in their efforts by sound programs of sex education in schools and parishes.
In all cases of pastoral accompaniment of families by the Church, it is essential that our efforts to walk with people witness with clarity to the teaching of the Church. Most important is a clarity and attractiveness of language, making the Church’s teaching more comprehensible and accessible.
We reflected on the way in which the Church walks with those who struggle. In all cases, pastoral care must be marked by charity and patience, especially with those who do not live or are not yet prepared to live in full accord with the Church’s teachings. They are to be welcomed with love and respect by the pastors of the Church, who should be generous in accompanying them and in fostering their desire to participate more fully into the life of the Church.
Among the important pastoral considerations, we discussed the challenges that mixed marriages pose. We affirm that for such marriages to succeed, it is important that the couples be well-prepared in the Church’s teaching before the marriage and accompanied by their faith communities.
We also took up certain proposals for accompanying those who are divorced and civilly remarried. We supported the recent efforts to streamline the process of nullity to make it more accessible without changing the Church’s teaching. The majority without full consensus affirmed the current teaching and practice of the Church regarding the participation in the Eucharist of those who are divorced and civilly remarried. We acknowledged that this pathway may be difficult, and pastors should accompany them with understanding, always ready to extend God’s mercy to them anew when they stand in need of it.
A majority without full consensus also affirmed that pastoral practice concerning reception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist by those divorced and civilly remarried ought not to be left to individual episcopal conferences.To do so would risk harm to the unity of the Catholic Church, the understanding of her sacramental order, and the visible witness of the life of the faithful.
We spoke of the importance of pastoral attention to persons with homosexual tendencies, with special attention to families in which a person with same sex attraction is a member. The Church as the spouse of Christ patterns her behaviour after the Lord Jesus whose all-embracing love is offered to every person without exception. Parents and siblings of family members with homosexual tendencies are called to love and accept these members of their family with an undivided and understanding heart. We call on the synod to affirm and propose anew the entirety of Church teaching onlove and chastity. We encourage parents and family members to have confidence in it as they love and accompany one another in responding to the Gospel’s call to chaste living.
Finally, we addressed the procreation and upbringing of children, affirming the rich teaching of Humanae Vitae, especially its affirmation that the unitive and procreative dimensions of the marital act are inseparable. Authentic pastoral accompaniment of couples proclaims this truth and also helps couples see that a well-formed conscience embraces the moral law not as an external restraint but, in grace, as a way of freedom. A pastoral approach is required that seeks to help spouses accept the full truth about marital love in ways that are comprehensible and inviting.
Our discussion on certain issues surfaced strong feelings and sentiments. The participants of the group hope that the final document will unify and not divide, giving expression that we are bishops cum and sub Petro.
With joy, we affirm the mission of the family – a mission to one another,to the Church, and to the world.
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