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Pope speaks of tensions at Vatican synod

20 October 2014


"A tireless apostle": Pope Francis leads the beatification ceremony, in St Peter's Square   

"A tireless apostle": Pope Francis leads the beatification ceremony, in St Peter's Square   

THE Extraordinary Synod on the Family, a two-week meeting of 184 bishops convened by the Pope to consider contemporary pastoral challenges to marriage and family life, concluded without reaching the required two-thirds majority to approve statements on the reception of communion by Roman Catholics married after divorce, and on the pastoral care of homosexuals.

Figures posted on the Vatican's website reveal that a majority of the bishops voted in favour of two contentious sections dealing with communion for the divorced and married again (58 per cent and 62 per cent).

More than 60 per cent of participants voted for a resolution on the pastoral care of homosexual people, again falling narrowly short of the majority required.

Disagreements between the bishops were not resolved by changes in the language of a document summarising the first week of discussions, to make it sound more conservative.

The section "Welcoming Homosexuals" was given the new heading of "Pastoral Attention to Persons with Homosexual Orientation", and a statement acknowledging the "precious support" that people in homosexual unions may offer to their partners was purged from the final draft.

In his closing address to the Synod, the Pope observed that participants had experienced "moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations", including a temptation to "hostile inflexibility" and also to a "destructive tendency to goodness" - which he described as the temptation of the "so-called progressives and liberals".

But he said he would have been "worried and saddened" if such tensions had not existed and if "all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace."

A larger synod on the family will be convened in a year's time to consider the bishops' conclusions. The work of this synod will result in an Apostolic Exhortation given by the Pope.

On Sunday, the Pope beatified his predecessor Pope Paul VI. He described him as the "great helmsman" of the Second Vatican Council during the 1960s.

Although Pope Paul is remembered by many people for  Humanae Vitae, his 1968 encyclical forbidding married couples from using artificial contraception, the Pope made no mention of this in his homily.

Instead, Pope Francis praised Pope Paul principally for his part in Vatican II, and described him as a "great pope", a "courageous Christian", and a "tireless apostle".

"We cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks," Pope Francis told a congregation of 30,000 people. "Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI. Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church."

Pope Paul, who reigned from 1963 to 1978, will now be known as "Blessed". One more inexplicable healing, attributed to his intercession, is needed before he can be given the title "Saint".             

During the mass, Sister Giacomina Pedrini of the Sisters of Holy Child Mary presented a relic at the altar of a blood-stained vest worn by Pope Paul during an assassination attempt in the Philippines in 1970. 

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