At a press conference revealing the official working calendar for the synod of bishops, the group's secretary general said the event will take on a new flavor and shouldn't be pegged to just one issue. “The Synod is about family, not divorce. Let's not monopolize it with Western problems,” Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri said Oct. 3 in response to a question surrounding the topic of divorced and remarried Catholics. “We need to present the beauty of the family to the world” and “we want to walk and view the global challenges to find an answer in the light of the Gospel.” Reflecting on the theme “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization,” the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family will kick-off with a public Mass presided over by Pope Francis this Sunday, and will culminate with the beatification of Pope Paul VI, institutor of the synod of bishops, by the Pope on Oct. 19. This synod has been called for in order to “to discuss a particularly urgent topic, using appropriate guidelines for the present time, for the good of the entire Church,” Cardinal Baldisseri said, and reminded journalists that it precedes the ordinary synod which is to take place next year. He drew attention to how this synod will take on some new characteristics compared to those in the past, saying that “full freedom of expression will be the main trait of the synod, which will take place in an atmosphere of respect of all positions.” Pope Francis has wanted that all synod fathers “be able to express themselves freely” and be able “to change the texts that they submitted,” the cardinal continued. However, he explained that despite this flexibility, they are being asked “to not make their point of view the dominant vie but rather to seek the truth together.” Also new is the Vatican’s social media push, which includes a “twitter service” in which the most important details of the synod will be live-tweeted from press conferences in different languages from their account @HolySeePress so that information can be shared in “a timely manner.” Going to the practical details, Cardinal Baldisseri explained that this year’s 191 synod fathers come from 5 different continents, including 42 from Africa, 38 from the Americas, 29 from Asia, 78 from Europe and four from Oceania. Participating in the synod will be the heads of various Oriental Churches, the cardinal reminded attendees, as well as the presidents of 114 Episcopal Conferences and 3 different religious, including Islam. Each of the 15 general congregation meetings “will open with the announcement of the topic and a witness of a married couple,” he went on, pointing out that most of the 28 synod auditors are couples. Cardinal Baldisseri said that the synod of bishops is also “to be accompanied by the People of God in Prayer,” explaining that in the diocese of Rome, Mass will be celebrated everyday during the 2-week meetings at 6 p.m. by either a bishop or a cardinal. In addition, there will be some guided prayers in the Salus Populi Romani chapel of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where Pope Francis has made a habit of going after every papal trip. Relics of St. Therese of Lisieux, whose feast was Oct. 1, as well as her parents Blessed Zélie and Louis Martin and Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi will be in Rome during the synod and available for public veneration.
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