"We are beginning a new series, a new cycle, and the topic will be the family; a topic that fits into this time between two Assemblies of the Synod dedicated to this very important reality." With these words, yesterday at St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis began the series of reflections on the family, focusing on the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops celebrated last October and retracing its four phases. In the first phase, "after the Cardinal Erdö's initial report, all the Fathers had the possibility to speak and everyone listened. And attentiveness of the Fathers was truly edifying. This was a moment of great freedom, in which each one was able to express his thoughts with frankness and with confidence."
The second phase included the collection of all the interventions and the drafting of a report by Cardinal Erdö, "composed of three points: listening to the context and challenges of the family; looking steadily to Christ and the Gospel of the family; and the comparison with the pastoral perspectives." On this first proposed summary, the Pope continued, "there was discussion in the groups, which was the third phase […]. Each group, after completing its work, presented a report; then, all the reports of the groups were immediately published." Finally, a commission "examined all the suggestions made by the language group,s and the Final Report was written. [...] As always, a final message of the Synod, shorter and more informative than the report, was also approved."
The Pope said that he had asked the Synod Fathers "to speak with sincerity and courage, and listen with humility, to say courageously everything they had in their hearts. At the Synod, there was not any kind of censorship, but everyone could—and even should—say what he had in his heart, what he sincerely thought". "Some of you—added Francis—may ask me: 'Did the Fathers argue?' But, I do not know if they argued, but they did indeed speak out loudly, that’s for sure. And this is freedom; it's the freedom that exists in the Church. Everything happened "cum Petro et sub Petro," that is, in the presence of the Pope, which is for all a guarantee of freedom and trust, and a guarantee of orthodoxy. Then, in my intervention at the end, I gave a brief account of the synodal experience."
Francis added that the Final Report, the point of arrival of all the reflection from the Diocese up to then, was published yesterday along with questions addressed to the Bishops' Conferences, thus becoming the Lineamenta for the next Synod. This—he clarified— is "not a parliament," but "a space protected so that the Holy Spirit can work; there was no clash between factions, as in parliament where this is permitted, but a discussion among the bishops, which came after a long process of preparation and will now continue in more work for the good of the family, the Church and society. This is a process; it's the normal path of a Synod. Now, this Relatio is sent back to the particular Churches, and so the work of prayer, reflection and fraternal discussion may continue there, in preparation for the next Assembly."