Pope Francis and members of the council of the Synod of Bishops met earlier this week to review input from around the world for October’s synod on the family and made their final suggestions for the synod’s working document.
The office of the synod’s general secretary will incorporate the suggestions and have the document translated, said a statement issued after the meeting.
“The publication will take place in a few weeks,” it said.
As the council was meeting with the Pope on Monday and Tuesday, the presidents of the bishops’ conferences of Germany, France and Switzerland organised a study day in Rome.
According to a press release from the German bishops’ conference, the meeting on May 25 brought together about 50 bishops, theologians, Curia officials and a few journalists to discuss issues likely to be raised at the synod.
Pope Francis has convoked the Synod of Bishops on the family for October 4 to 25; it is to be the conclusion of a process that included a discussion within the College of Cardinals and an extraordinary Synod of Bishops last October.
Much of the media attention focused on the issue of outreach to divorced Catholics, including discussion about the possibility of readmitting to Communion those who have married civilly without obtaining an annulment. The needs of poor families, the impact of migration on families, marriage preparation courses and outreach to gay Catholics were also topics at the extraordinary synod in 2014.
The Vatican sent every bishops’ conference the conclusions of the extraordinary synod, along with 46 questions related to how well the Church supports families and how Catholics understand Church teaching on marriage, sexuality and family life. Bishops were to solicit responses to the questions, compile them at the national level and return them to the synod office.
With the Pope presiding, the synod council examined the responses from the bishops’ conferences “as well as numerous contributions from different Church realities and individual faithful,” said the Vatican’s statement on May 26.
Council members then made proposals for how the responses would be incorporated into the synod working document, it said.
In addition, members of the council discussed ways “to update the working method” of the synod for the October meeting. The statement provided no further details.
Pope Francis, like Benedict XVI before him, has tried to make the synod less a gathering of bishops reading speeches and more a forum for discussing, questioning, studying and praying about the Church’s response to various problems.
Organising their own meeting at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, the presidents of the bishops’ conferences of Germany, Switzerland and France said they wanted to “enrich thinking about the biblical and theological foundations of the themes and clarify the issues at the heart of the current debates on marriage and family.”
Catholic biblical scholars and theologians led a discussion on interpreting Jesus’ words against divorce, the statement said, but also looked at how his words fit in with Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God and with the tradition of the Church.
The study day also featured a discussion of the “theology of love” and of sexuality as a “language of God and a gift precious to God,” it said.
The press statement said that while the discussion highlighted a “diversity of approaches” to the topics, it also demonstrated how “theological discussion about the future of marriage and family is necessary and full of promise.”