The Synod of Bishops on Friday entered its decisive second phase, with the formation of small groups which are to come to decisions which will be synthesized into the synod's concluding “relatio.” The relatio will form the basis for discussion in the 2015 ordinary synod on the family. It will be presented Oct. 13 by Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, who is serving as general rapporteur for the Synod of Bishops. The relatio will give the first response of the synod fathers to some of the event's discussions, including that of admission to Communion for the divorced and remarried. Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, told CNA Oct. 10 that “the document will include a part on the divorced and remarried, gay couples, and also part of the discussion raised on the possibility of reforming the process of declarations of nullity,” but it will also include “a wider part on the Church’s teaching on the family, and positive examples to live it.” The text of the document should be a balance between the two “poles” which have emerged in the synod. This polarity was expressed in the afternoon session of Oct. 9, when the hypothesis of a “penitential path” for the divorced and civilly remarried arose. The “penitential path” was among Cardinal Walter Kasper’s much-discussed proposals at the February consistory, and it was intended to grant some divorced and remarried persons access to Communion. Fr. Lombardi stated in a briefing with journalists that “concrete proposals” on how to carry forward such a penitential path had been advanced. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, offered an alternative. He said, “another suggestion is that of blessing divorced and remarried people at the moment of the Communion,” adding that “this can be expressed ritually: one person approach the priest, cross his arms, and receive a blessing.” “This way, the person signals to the priest that he cannot receive Communion, but he need a blessing. We must tell people that it is possible to find grace again,” Cardinal Ouellet stated. The decisive moment of the synod will be next week during the small group discussions. The bishops will be broken up by language into 10 groups, discussing the issues at stake, and presenting their conclusions to the secretariat, which will draft the synod's relatio. Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, who is secretary of the synod, said that “as during the Second Vatican Council the inter-session produced some of the most important stances, the free discussions will likely be the moment when the synod will take its shape.” The synod has raised many topics of discussion this week: the announcement of the gospel of the family; pastoral care of families, especially those in difficult situations; proposals regarding the divorced and remarried, and cases of nullity; and also the different challenges to the family worldwide. For example, bishops from Africa have stressed that “more than the issue of divorce and remarriage, their societies must face the problem of polygamy, and even the influence of multinational companies or international organizations pressuring for the introduction in their countries of reproductive health rights, same-sex marriage, and birth control,” Fr. Lombardi recounted. The debate has been “lively and animated,” he said, but at the same time “fraternal.” Fr. Lombardi maintained that “the climate is probably relaxed because everyone knows that this synod is part of a path that will be concluded with the 2015 ordinary synod on the same topic.” The synod’s final relatio will be presented to the Pope at the end of the week, and it will be the basis for the instrumentum laboris of the 2015 synod.
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