The schedule of liturgical celebrations over which Pope Francis will preside in October is mainly booked with events surrounding the synod of bishops, which culminates with the beatification of Pope Paul VI. According to the schedule released by the Vatican on Sept. 26, Pope Francis will begin the month of October by kicking off the highly anticipated synod of bishops on the family with an Oct. 4 prayer vigil to be held in St. Peter’s Square at 6p.m. local time. Following the prayer vigil, Pope Francis will officiate an Oct. 5 mass to mark opening of the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family in St Peter’s basilica at 10a.m. Reflecting on the theme “the Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization,” the Oct. 5-19 third extraordinary synod of bishops was called by Pope Francis last fall in order to prepare the ordinary synod in 2015. Pope Francis’ next liturgical ceremony following the opening Mass of the synod will be a Mass of Thanksgiving canonization of two Canadian saints which will take place Sunday, Oct. 12, at 10a.m. in St. Peter’s Square. He will close the synod Sunday, Oct. 19, will a Mass in St Peter’s basilica at 10:30a.m. local time, during which he will beatify the Servant of God Pope Paul VI. Paul VI is most well-known for his encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” which spoke about the importance of generosity in married love and the principles of responsible parenthood, and his re-convocation of the Second Vatican Council, which had automatically closed with the death of his predecessor, St. John XIII. The papal ceremonies for the month of October will conclude with a consistory for some causes for canonization in the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace Monday, Oct. 20. At a press conference announcing the “instrumentum laboris” of the October synod on the family earlier this summer, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri revealed that the outline for the bishops’ discussion is divided into three parts, the first focusing on the communication of the Gospel in today’s world. The second part will addresses the pastoral program for the family in light of new challenges, while the third, concluding section will center on an openness to life and parental responsibility in the upbringing of children. Among current challenges facing the family to be outlined in the second part of the discussions are pastoral approaches regarding the difficult situations of married couples, the cardinal explained. Specific topics will include unmarried couples who live together and de facto unions, separated and divorced couples, remarried divorcees and their eventual further children, single mothers, those who are in canonically irregular situations and non-believers or non-practicing Catholics who wish to marry, he said. The cardinal emphasized that the instrumentum “offers real knowledge” of the situation of remarried divorcees, stating that from this knowledge “the Church is required to find solutions compatible with her teaching and which lead to a serene and reconciled life.” Although there has been increased hype surrounding the topic of remarried divorcees ahead of the synod, with many speculating a change in Church doctrine allowing persons in this situation to receive communion, Cardinal Baldisseri gave a reminder that discussion will surround more than just one issue. “I would like to remind you that the next assembly of the synod of bishops is titled ‘the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization,’” he told CNA in May. “So the synod will deal with the family in its various aspects — not with a single issue. In my view, a good service for people would be that of giving each issue regarding the family the same ‘space’ for discussion.” During the synod Mass is to be celebrated each day during the working sessions in the Salus Populi Romanii Chapel in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. All of the concluding documents from the extraordinary synod on the family this year will be used to form the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document, for the ordinary synod in 2015. Upon the closing of the ordinary synod, which will reflect on the theme “Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the family,” Pope Francis will use the conclusions to draft his first Post-Synodal Exhortation, which can be expected in 2016.
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