10/13/2014, 00.00
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Synod: "the desire for family" still alive, but "new pastoral programs" needed

The "Relatio post disceptationem" (midterm report) urges greater openness to the "positive realities" found even in individualism, civil marriages and civil partnerships, greater Christian involvement of families in the work of evangelization, "greater involvement of the entire Christian community in preparing engaged couples for marriage "and to" a pastoral accompaniment that goes beyond the celebration of the sacrament ", with the need for subsequent formation of pastoral workers.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - In spite of the many signs of crisis, caused by factors ranging from economic hardships to the "growing danger posed by an exaggerated individualism", the "desire for family" is still alive, especially among young people. Hence "the need for the Church to proclaim relentlessly and with deep conviction that 'Gospel of the family' which has been entrusted with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ" and "the urgent need for new pastoral programs" that "turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings".

These are the main findings of the "Relatio post disceptationem," the report after the discussion, held this morning by the general rapporteur, Card. Peter Erdo before the 11th General Congregation of the Extraordinary Synod on the family.  The Cardinal stated that the main aim of the Assembly  is to "raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer by the reflection of the local Churches in the year that separates us from the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of bishops planned for October 2015. These are not decisions that have been made nor simply points of view".

The main issues are being able to "appreciate the positive values" of individualism and also "of civil marriages and cohabitation", foster a greater involvement of Christian families in the work of evangelization, " a greater undertaking from the whole Christian community for the preparation of those who are about to be married" and "pastoral accompaniment that goes beyond the celebration of the sacrament ", with the associated need for subsequent formation of pastoral workers.

The starting point is that "the great values of marriage and the Christian family correspond to the search that distinguishes human existence even in a time marked by individualism and hedonism. It is necessary to accept people in their concrete being, to know how to support their search, to encourage the wish for God and the will to feel fully part of the Church, also on the part of those who have experienced failure or find themselves in the most diverse situations. This requires that the doctrine of the faith, the basic content of which should be made increasingly better known, be proposed alongside with mercy.

And if "the biggest test for the families of our time is often loneliness", "The crisis in the couple destabilizes the family and may lead, through separations and divorce, to serious consequences for adults, children and society as a whole, weakening the individual and social bonds".

Faced with the crisis of the family and to the new reality, the report claims that " Through the law of gradualness (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 34), typical of divine pedagogy, this means interpreting the nuptial covenant in terms of continuity and novelty, in the order of creation and in that of redemption. Jesus Himself, referring to the primordial plan for the human couple, reaffirms the indissoluble union between man and woman, while understanding that "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning" (Mt 19,8). In this way, He shows how divine condescension always accompanies the path of humanity, directing it towards its new beginning, not without passing through the cross." .

"We are able to distinguish three fundamental phases in the divine plan for the family: the family of origins, when God the creator instituted the primordial marriage between Adam and Eve, as a solid foundation for the family: he created them male and female (cg. Gn 1,24-31; 2,4b); the historic family, wounded by sin (cf. Gn 3) and the family redeemed by Christ (cf. Eph 5,21-32), in the image of the Holy Trinity, the mystery from which every true love springs. The sponsal covenant, inaugurated in creation and revealed in the history of God and Israel, reaches its fullest expression with Christ in the Church".

"In considering the principle of gradualness in the divine salvific plan, one asks what possibilities are given to married couples who experience the failure of their marriage, or rather how it is possible to offer them Christ's help through the ministry of the Church". " Some ask whether the sacramental fullness of marriage does not exclude the possibility of recognizing positive elements even the imperfect forms that may be found outside this nuptial situation, which are in any case ordered in relation to it. The doctrine of levels of communion, formulated by Vatican Council II, confirms the vision of a structured way of participating in the Mysterium Ecclesiae by baptized persons".

Realizing the need, therefore, "for spiritual discernment with regard to cohabitation, civil marriages and divorced and remarried persons, it is the task of the Church to recognize those seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries". A new dimension of today's family pastoral consists of accepting the reality of civil marriage and also cohabitation, taking into account the due differences. Indeed, when a union reaches a notable level of stability through a public bond, is characterized by deep affection, responsibility with regard to offspring, and capacity to withstand tests, it may be seen as a germ to be accompanied in development towards the sacrament of marriage".

The new reality of life for families and people in general - states the Report - means greater  responsibility to evangelize, shared by the whole people of God, each according to his ministry and charism. For this reason, what is required is a missionary conversion: it is necessary not to stop at an announcement that is merely theoretical and has nothing to do with people's real problems. It must not be forgotten that the crisis of faith has led to a crisis in matrimony and the family and, as a result, the transmission of faith from parents to children has often been interrupted. Confronted by a strong faith, the imposition of certain cultural perspectives that weaken the family is of no importance".

The discussions also highlighted "the indispensable biblical-theological study is to be accompanied by dialog, at all levels" and "a repeated insistence on renewing in this light the training of presbyters and other pastoral operators, through a greater involvement of the families themselves".

Turning then to address the specific difficult situations, the Report affirmed that the Church is called to "always be the open house of the Father" and to accompany those who feel the need to resume their journey of faith, even if they cannot celebrate the marriage sacrament.

"Such discernment is indispensable for the separated and divorced. What needs to be respected above all is the suffering of those who have endured separation and divorce unjustly. The forgiveness for the injustice endured is not easy, but it is a journey that grace makes possible. In the same way it needs to be always underlined that it is indispensable to assume in a faithful and constructive way the consequences of separation or divorce on the children: they must not become an "object" to be fought over and the most suitable means need to be sought so that they can get over the trauma of the family break-up and grow up in the most serene way possible. "

"As regards the possibility of partaking of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, some argued in favor of the present regulations because of their theological foundation, others were in favor of a greater opening on very precise conditions when dealing with situations that cannot be resolved without creating new injustices and suffering. For some, partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path - under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop -, and with a clear undertaking in favor of the children. This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances".

"Suggesting limiting themselves to only "spiritual communion" was questioned by more than a few Synodal Fathers: if spiritual communion is possible, why not allow them to partake in the sacrament? As a result a greater theological study was requested starting with the links between the sacrament of marriage and the Eucharist in relation to the Church-sacrament. In the same way, the moral dimension of the problem requires further consideration, listening to and illuminating the consciences of spouses".

Even the homosexual issue " The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology".

Ultimately, the Report points out that "The fundamental challenge facing families today is undoubtedly that of education, rendered more difficult and complex by today's cultural reality. What have to be considered are the needs and expectations of families capable of testifying in daily life, places of growth, of concrete and essential transmission of the virtues that provide form for existence".

"In this Church can carry out a precious role in supporting families, starting from Christian initiation, through welcoming communities. What is asked of these, today even more than yesterday, in complex as well as mundane situations, is to support parents in their educative undertaking, accompanying children and young people in their growth through personalized paths capable of introducing them to the full meaning of life and encouraging choices and responsibilities, lived in the light of the Gospel"(FP)


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