In his weekly general audience Pope Francis started a new catechesis on the family, and explained that discussion surrounding the topic in the synod of bishops is rooted in the fundamental truths of marriage. “Dear Brothers and Sisters, this morning we begin a new series of catechesis devoted to the family,” the Pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Dec. 10 general audience. He recalled how the current pastoral challenges to the family were discussed in October during the Third Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. The results of this year’s meeting, he noted, serves as a preparation for next year’s Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. Synod discussion, the Pope observed, consisted of honest discussion in which the serious challenges to the family were discussed “in the light of the fundamental truths about the sacrament of Matrimony — its indissolubility, unity, fidelity and openness to life.” Pope Francis explained that a synod of bishops is not “a parliament where different parties or groups of power debate,” but it is rather a unique and protected environment of communion where the Holy Spirit is able to work. “With this conviction I asked the synod fathers to have no hesitation in speaking frankly and freely, listening to the others with respect and humility. There was no prior censorship.” He recalled how the discussion of the pastoral challenges to families were collected and complied into a preliminary report ahead of the extraordinary synod in October, which was then discussed by smaller groups divided by language. The observations and suggestions that came from these smaller language groups were then developed and incorporated into a final report, which served as a basis for the synod’s final message to families. The Roman Pontiff then observed how this final report is being sent to the different bishops conferences around the world in order to prepare for next year’s meeting. Although all of these steps have been published already, the Pope clarified that the only three “official documents” coming from the synod are the final report, the final message to families, and his own concluding speech, which he hopes will “help the people of God.” “I ask all of you to pray, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, that the Synod process will result in pastoral decisions truly beneficial to the family, the Church and society,” the Bishop of Rome concluded. He then greeted pilgrims present from various countries around the world, including Denmark, Nigeria, Australia, the United States of America, Spain, México and Argentina. Pope Francis urged them to join the synod process “with prayer, asking the Virgin Mary to help us make the most appropriate pastoral decisions for the good of families. Thank you.”