The true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit, Pope Francis has told the synod fathers in his closing address.
Speaking at the end of the three-week family synod, the Pope said: “The synod experience … made us better realise that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness.
“This is in no way to detract from the importance of formulae, laws and divine commandments, but rather to exalt the greatness of the true God, who does not treat us according to our merits or even according to our works but solely according to the boundless generosity of his Mercy.
“It does have to do with overcoming the recurring temptations of the elder brother and the jealous labourers. Indeed, it means upholding all the more the laws and commandments which were made for man and not vice versa.”
Reflecting on the synod’s purpose, he said: “Certainly, the Synod was not about settling all the issues having to do with the family, but rather attempting to see them in the light of the Gospel and the Church’s tradition and 2,000-year history, bringing the joy of hope without falling into a facile repetition of what is obvious or has already been said.
“Surely it was not about finding exhaustive solutions for all the difficulties and uncertainties which challenge and threaten the family, but rather about seeing these difficulties and uncertainties in the light of the Faith, carefully studying them and confronting them fearlessly, without burying our heads in the sand.
“It was about urging everyone to appreciate the importance of the institution of the family and of marriage between a man and a woman, based on unity and indissolubility, and valuing it as the fundamental basis of society and human life.”
He continued: “In the course of this Synod, the different opinions which were freely expressed – and at times, unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning ways – certainly led to a rich and lively dialogue; they offered a vivid image of a Church which does not simply ‘rubberstamp’, but draws from the sources of her faith living waters to refresh parched hearts.
“And – apart from dogmatic questions clearly defined by the Church’s Magisterium – we have also seen that what seems normal for a bishop on one continent, is considered strange and almost scandalous for a bishop from another; what is considered a violation of a right in one society is an evident and inviolable rule in another; what for some is freedom of conscience is for others simply confusion.
“Cultures are in fact quite diverse, and each general principle needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied. The 1985 Synod, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, spoke of inculturation as ‘the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity, and the taking root of Christianity in the various human cultures’.
“Inculturation does not weaken true values, but demonstrates their true strength and authenticity, since they adapt without changing; indeed they quietly and gradually transform the different cultures.
“We have seen, also by the richness of our diversity, that the same challenge is ever before us: that of proclaiming the Gospel to the men and women of today, and defending the family from all ideological and individualistic assaults.”
The synod fathers voted to approve the relatio finalis, or final document.
All 94 paragraphs of the text were passed by a two thirds majority. The Holy See Press Office said 265 synod fathers were present and 177 qualified as a majority.
On Sunday Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass concluding the synod in St Peter’s Basilica.