I am writing to you this week from Rome, where we have just begun the second day of the Synod of Bishops on the family, which will run Oct. 4—25. 

This synod is an important moment in the life of the universal Church. The synod gives the world’s bishops a chance to come together with the pope to pray and reflect on the beauty of the family in God’s plan for the world and on the mission that every Christian family has in spreading the Gospel.

Going into the synod, there has been a lot of conversation in the global media centered on various controversies related to divorce and the meaning of marriage. 

But Pope Francis is making it clear that he does not consider marriage and the family to be “problems” that need to be fixed. 

In his opening address, the pope said the synod is not about our “personal opinions” and it is not a political convention “where people make deals and compromises.” 

Instead, he said, the synod is called so that the world’s bishops can listen together and be guided by the Holy Spirit — “with faith in God, fidelity to the Magisterium, for the good of the Church and the Salus animarum [the salvation of souls].” 

The pope believes that we possess a beautiful truth in the Scriptures and the Church’s teaching Magisterium: the truth that the family is God’s way for creation and God’s great gift to the world — “God’s dream for his beloved creation,” as he put it in his opening homily for the synod

During his recent apostolic visit to the United States, our Holy Father stressed these same points about the beauty and dignity of the family, which he said are rooted in the Scriptures.  

At the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, our Holy Father said: “The most beautiful thing God made — so the Bible tells us — was the family. He created man and woman. And he gave them everything. He entrusted the world to them. ... All the love he put into that marvelous creation, he entrusted to a family.”

For the pope, the family has an essential mission in God’s redemptive plan for the world. And that is what this synod is all about — understanding the challenges facing married couples and families in our society and rediscovering the beauty of the family’s mission in light of the Gospel and the Church’s teachings. 

Also on our first day, we heard a long and inspiring speech by Cardinal Péter Erdö, the archbishop of Budapest, Hungary. He is the synod’s “Rapporteur,” entrusted with guiding the synod’s deliberations. 

In his address, Cardinal Erdö spoke of marriage and family as a “vocation,” a personal calling from God and part of God’s “divine pedagogy.” 

He said that husbands and wives and every family member are called to be missionary disciples and should see their families as a “domestic Church.”  

Cardinal Erdö also discussed the Gospel’s teaching on marriage and described these teachings as a “true gospel and a font of joy” that offer men and women a way to find real happiness and to realize their purposes in the world. 

Pope Francis also spoke of Jesus’ teachings on marriage in his opening homily: 

“He brings everything back to the beginning, to the beginning of creation, to teach us that God blesses human love, that it is he who joins the hearts of two people who love one another, he who joins them in unity and indissolubility. This shows us that the goal of conjugal life is not simply to live together for life, but to love one another for life! In this way Jesus reestablishes the order which was present from the beginning.”

Our discussions are ongoing, and I am encouraged by the positive and inspiring tone of these opening days. 

So this week, please keep me and the bishops of the synod in your prayers. Let’s keep praying for one another in this important time for the universal Church. 

And let’s ask for the intercession of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph to guide this synod — that the synod might result in a new proclamation of the beauty and joy of the family and how the family is the crucial “way” for the Church and for God’s plan for society and the world.

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