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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 11 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 41
What is Francis up to now? - Pope blesses Gay group, calls special bishops' meeting
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What is Francis up to now? - Pope blesses Gay group, calls special bishops' meeting

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

One week after meeting with the so-called 'G8' - the group of eight cardinals who are to advise him on reforming the Catholic Church - Pope Francis called for a special meeting of Catholic bishops to discuss marriage and family issues.

On October 8, the Vatican announced that the Pope will host an 'Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.' The Second Vatican Council introduced synods, or formal meetings of Catholic bishops, in 1965 to help the Pope keep in touch with the Church beyond the Vatican bureaucracy.

Regular synods are convened every couple of years, but 'extraordinary' synods are rare. In fact, there have only been two since the institution was established: the first, in 1969, discussed cooperation between the Vatican and local bishops, and the second was called in 1985 to commemorate the anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.

The fact that the Pope has called for an 'extraordinary' synod means he attaches special importance to the topic to be discussed: 'The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.'

'It is very important that an extraordinary synod has been convoked on the theme of the pastoral of the family,' Vatican spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi said. 'This is the way in which the Pope intends to promote reflection and to guide the path of the community of the Church, with the responsible participation of the episcopate from different parts of the world.'

The meeting will take place in Rome, October 5-14, 2014, and will include the heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches, presidents of bishops' conferences, and heads of curial offices - the managers of the Vatican bureaucracy.

GAYS ON THE AGENDA?
Vatican insiders say the touchy issue of divorced and remarried Catholics will almost certainly be on the table. Whether topics for discussion will also include Gay and Lesbian relationships is unclear.

Critics have complained that synods often avoid real consultation, that conclusions sometimes appear determined in advance, and that too much time is wasted on speechmaking.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Vatican sources say that the Pope and his advisors envision a multiphase process involving widespread opportunities for input at the local level, including use of the Internet to collect suggestions.

After a first meeting in Rome, a draft set of proposals would be sent to the Pope, and also back to local dioceses for further reaction and discussion and would only be formally adopted in a second session.

'Those of us who want to see real change,' one cardinal told the NCR on background, 'have reason to be optimistic.'

KAIROS: POPE BLESSED US
According to Italy's La Reppublica newspaper, Pope Francis has personally responded to a letter from a Gay Catholic group and assured them of his blessing.

In June, the group Kairos, based in Florence, Italy, wrote to the Pope asking him to be open to dialogue with LGBT Catholics. Being closed to discussion 'always feeds homophobia,' they noted.

The group said they were 'stunned' when the Pope replied personally. One leader of the group told La Repubblica that before Francis, 'no one had ever even given a nod of response' from the Vatican.

One Kairos member told the newspaper that the Pope had also assured the group of his blessing.

Kairos also said they had received a letter from the Vatican Secretariat of State, which informed them that Pope Francis 'really enjoyed' their letter to him and the way it was written, calling it an act of 'spontaneous confidence.'

The Vatican has not commented on the reports.

In a now-famous September interview with the Italian Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, the Pope warned that Catholic authorities often come off as self-righteous scolds.

'It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,' Francis said, referring to contraception and sexual issues like same-sex attractions.

'The dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church are not all equivalent. The Church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

'We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.'

At the same time, the Pope referred to the church's catechism, which holds that LGBT people are 'objectively disordered.'

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