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Pope invites 14 couples to attend Synod of Bishops on family

A newly married couple walk past Swiss Guards after meeting Pope Francis during a general audience last month (CNS)

More than 250 participants, including 14 married couples from around the world, are expected to attend October’s extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family.

In addition to 114 presidents of national bishops’ conferences, 13 heads of Eastern Catholic churches and 25 heads of Vatican congregations and councils, the Pope has appointed 26 synod fathers to take part in the October 5 to 19 synod.

A list of the appointments was released on Tuesday by the Vatican.

Almost all of the 26 papally appointed voting members are from Europe. Of these, none of the 14 cardinals, eight bishops and four priests appointed by the Pope is from North America or other English-speaking countries.

Some of the papal appointees include German Cardinal Walter Kasper, Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, and Italian Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, as well as Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, director of La Civilta Cattolica journal, and Msgr Pio Pinto, dean of the Roman Rota, a Vatican-based tribunal that deals mainly with marriage cases.

However, among the non-voting members of 38 observers and 16 experts appointed by the Pope, the majority are laymen and laywomen, including 14 married couples, and they are more geographically diverse, with several coming from Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas, as well as Europe.

Voting synod members include officials from the Roman Curia, heads of the Eastern churches, and archbishops of churches “sui iuris,” including Byzantine Archbishop William C Skurla of Pittsburgh.

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and US Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, the Vatican’s highest court, were to attend as officials of the Roman Curia.

Among those attending who are part of the synod’s ordinary council include: US Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Donald Wuerl of Washington; Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy; South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban; and Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, who is also one of three delegate presidents of the assembly. Pope Francis will serve as president and Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri as the synod’s general secretary.

Among the presidents or vice presidents of national bishops’ conferences who are expected to attend, there will be US Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Scottish Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow.

The theme of the extraordinary synod is: ‘The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation’, and synod members will be called upon to find ways to improve the pastoral application of Church teachings, ways to explain it and to help Catholics live it.

Many of the 38 papally appointed observers and experts are lay and religious women and men active in family ministries and pastoral care, canon law and moral theology.

Among those invited to attend include Christopher Meney, director of the Life, Marriage and Family Centre with the Archdiocese of Sydney,
Sister Margaret Muldoon, a former superior general of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux and Riyadh Naoom Azzo and Sanaa Ibrahim Habeeb, a married couple from Iraq, “witnesses of Christian family life in an Islamic setting”.

Eight “fraternal delegates” will represent non-Catholic Christian communities, such as the Lutheran, Anglican and Baptist communities as well as Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, director of foreign relations for the Moscow patriarchate.