A Vatican official has said that the period before the upcoming bishops’ synods on the family will be a time of grace and prayer that allows the Church to pray and reflect about the family in all of its aspects. “We are all working on the family. We should rediscover the family as a domestic church. We are all anyway convinced that family is fundamental for life of society,” Bishop Fabio Fabene, the under-secretary of the Synod of the Bishops, told CNA June 3. The Synod of Bishops is a Catholic institution that advances the Catholic bishops’ collaboration with the Pope. The synod is preparing for its extraordinary general assembly of 2014 and the ordinary assembly of 2015. Both events will gather together bishops from around the world. Bishop Fabene wanted to stress that the upcoming synods will deal with “all the richness and beauty of the family.” “The Church wants to proclaim to today’s world the beauty of God’s project on the human family,” he added. The Synod of Bishops’ extraordinary general assembly is scheduled for Oct. 5 to 19 this year. It will explore the pastoral challenges related to the family in the context of evangelization. Bishop Fabene said that the assembly is “a time of grace, but it is also a time of prayer.” He noted that a movement of prayer has begun since the Feast of the Holy Family, Dec. 29 of last year, when Pope Francis released his prayer for the family. Since then, the prayer has been recited in many Marian sanctuaries and in three major sanctuaries dedicated to the Holy Family: in Loreto, Italy; in Barcelona, Spain; and in Nazareth in Palestine. Bishop Fabene invited the Catholic faithful “to take part too in this movement of prayer and to pray for the Synod of Bishops in order that it can fulfill its mission with concern and to pray for the family with the Pope’s prayer.” Preparatory documents for the extraordinary synod included a questionnaire delivered to all the bishops’ conferences. It included questions about the pastoral role of the family and about how to assist those in irregular family situations. According to Bishop Fabene, the questionnaire “had a wide feedback from the bishops’ conferences as well as from communities, dioceses and parishes.” This broad feedback proved “that the Church, in all of its articulation, felt involved in the process.” Bishop Fabene, a newly ordained bishop himself, explained Pope Francis’ relationship with the synod. “Several times, Pope Francis spoke about the main role the Synod of Bishops may play in governing the Church. Pope Francis underscored the need to find new forms to carry out episcopal collegiality in service of the communion and mission of the Church in the letter he sent to Cardinal (Lorenzo) Baldisseri, general secretary of the synod, to announce to him the decision to ordain me bishop.” Pope Francis showed his attention to the synod of bishops by taking part in all the meetings of the synod’s council. “The Pope is a great listener, and he is very attentive in taking all the suggestions and doubts raised during the meetings. He sits down and listens to us,” Bishop Fabene said. Bishop Fabene said that the synod is a “tool” that can be renewed as needed. When Pope Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops he said that it “might be perfected and fit to the signs of the times,” the bishop explained. “If the synod wants to assist the Pope in governing the Church, it also wants to help bishops to be part of one sole community, one sole college, so that the mission of the Church is fulfilled in the most appropriate ways.” Bishop Fabene was ordained bishop by Pope Francis May 30. It is the first time the under-secretary of the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops is a bishop himself. “Pope Francis ordained me a bishop because he is the president of the Synod, and we are all his collaborators, and this bond between the Pope and the Synod was made explicit with my episcopal ordination,” said Bishop Fabene. He recounted that “it was a real gift to be ordained by the Pope.” The ordination “was attended by many people of parishes with many children, and this attendance provided an ecclesiastical and joyful framework to the celebration.”
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