Pope Francis, he says, is inviting the Church to a "pastoral conversion"
(Vatican Radio) Synod participants moved another step closer to the conclusion of their two week meeting on Thursday as the results of their small working groups were made public. Church leaders and lay experts in the "Circoli Minori," as they are called, have been poring over the text of a working document on the challenges facing families in the context of evangelization. Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn spoke to reporters in the Vatican press office.
Described as a “key day” in the life of this Synod, today leaders of the 10 language groups (3 in English and Italian, 2 in French and Spanish) presented the fruits of their labors that have been so closely scrutinized by the world’s press.
Each group has worked hard to suggest improvements or amendments to be included in a final Synod document that will be discussed and voted on by the whole assembly on Saturday. While certain parts of the media have been depicting a bitter conflict between the so-called traditional and more reform-minded bishops, Canadian Father Tom Rosica said the sincere and honest discussions have been a vital part of the Pope’s desire for a reform of the Church’s decision making process.
“What I saw this morning was remarkable….people talked very openly and it was an important part of the renewal of the synodal process.”
But what exactly does that reform mean and will this first Synod of the Francis era lead to substantial changes in the Church’s teaching and practice on marriage and family life? Not changes, said Cardinal Schoenborn, but a development of doctrine that has always taken place as the Church struggles to face the new challenges of people living in the modern world.
Pope Francis, he said, is inviting us to "pastoral conversion" in a Church that is fast becoming a minority in many European countries, just as it is in other parts of the world. That requires the courage to go out of our churches and into the streets, treating all people with respect and welcome, rather than judging their domestic arrangements or sexual orientation.
“We first look at the person and not at the sexual orientation…and when the catechism or the document speaks about accoglienza (welcome) this is a basic human and Christian behaviour. But the respect for every human person does not mean respect for every human behavior," he said.
Cardinal Schoenborn also spoke in very personal terms of his experience of suffering as the son of divorced parents, as well as his admiration for the exemplary love and care shown by a gay couple he knows back in his home city of Vienna. The task of the Church, he reminded journalists, is to seek positive seeds of truth in every situation, and not to peer anxiously behind bedroom doors, but embrace the love that can be found in the living rooms of every family home.