THE message of Pope Francis at the conclusion of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops put to rest the controversy that was stirred by the synod midterm report. It also dampened the hopes of those who were speculating that the Synod Fathers were now moving towards a conciliatory language in dealing with the divorced and remarried Catholics, cohabitating couples and same-sex unions—as it silenced the frenzy of the media that hoisted such banners as “Synod signals Catholic shift on gays” and “Vatican’s New Views on Gays, Divorced” and hailed a possible slackening of the Church’s teaching on marriage.
Outside the synod hall, a good segment of the whole Christendom was very apprehensive. Some were scared and even hurt. They thought that the prelates running the proceedings were handpicked by the Pontiff to formally propose a general shift of the Church’s attitude towards non-marital relationships and the admission of the divorced-and-remarried to communion which cuts deeply into the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.
But Pope Francis whose address was met with a four-minute standing ovation by the Synod participants settled everybody back on track. He told the Synod Fathers that the animated disputations were “movement of the spirits” as they were “full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parrhesia”. And he assured them that “I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the ‘supreme law,’ and the ‘good of souls.’ And this always…without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life.”
And he even went deeper into restating a new ecclesiology that is faithful to the Gospel in the face of contemporary realities. He said, “And this is the Church…who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.”
Pope Francis beatified Pope Paul VI, who issued Humanae Vitae, at the closing of the Synod. This maybe his loudest affirmation of the Church’s teaching on the family and life.