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Vatican announces world day of prayer for family synod

Francis addresses cardinals in the synod hall in February (CNS)

Catholics around the world will be invited to take part in a day of prayer for the synod of bishops on the family, the Vatican announced today.

The day of prayer will take place on September 28, days before the extraordinary synod on the family begins on October 5.

Vatican officials made the announcement at a press conference launching the synod’s instrumentum laboris, or working document.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the synod of bishops, also disclosed the theme for ordinary synod on the family, which will take place in 2015. The topic will be “Jesus Christ reveals the vocation and the meaning of the family”.

The working document, which summarises the responses to the synod questionnaire sent out last year, touches on some of the most contentious issues within the Church, including contraception, Communion for the divorced and remarried, and marriage annulments.

The text calls Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical reaffirming the Church’s opposition to contraception, “prophetic”.

It says: “The Encyclical Humanae Vitae certainly had a prophetic character in reiterating the unbreakable link between conjugal love and the transmission of life. The Church is called to proclaim the fruitfulness of love in light of that faith which ‘helps us grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person’. Many of the difficulties highlighted in the responses and observations reveal the agonising situation of people today when faced with the subjects of love, the generation of life, the reciprocity between man and woman and fatherhood and motherhood.”

Regarding the debate over the admission of remarried Catholics to Communion, the document says: “A good number of responses speak of the very many cases, especially in Europe, America and some countries in Africa, where persons clearly ask to receive the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. This happens primarily when their children receive the sacraments. At times, they express a desire to receive Communion to feel ‘legitimised’ by the Church and to eliminate the sense of exclusion or marginalisation.

“In this regard, some recommend considering the practice of some Orthodox Churches, which, in their opinion, opens the way for a second or third marriage of a penitential character. In light of this suggestion, countries having a major number of Orthodox Christians noted that, from their experience, this practice does not reduce the number of divorces. Others request clarification as to whether this solution is based on doctrine or is merely a matter of discipline.”

The document also comments on the debate about whether marriage annulments should be given more speedily. It says: “Very many responses, especially in Europe and North America request streamlining the procedure for marriage annulments. In this regard, they see a need to investigate the question of the relationship between faith and the Sacrament of Matrimony, as suggested by Pope Benedict XVI, on several occasions. In some cases, Catholics in countries with a major number of Orthodox Christians remarry in the Orthodox Church following their customary ritual and then ask to receive Communion in the Catholic Church.”

You can read the full text of the family synod working document here.


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