“The family is crucial issue today” and “the Church doesn’t refrain from facing challenges, but it does with full responsibility”. Against the backdrop of the preparations for the upcoming synodal Assembly (Vatican, October 5-19 2014), dedicated to “pastoral challenges on the family in the framework of evangelization”, cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general Secretary of the Bishops’ Synod, reiterated the importance of the event. “The family is an overarching theme, and its multifaceted aspects should be addressed as a whole”. “In May the ordinary Council of the Secretariat will adopt the Instrumentum laboris”, His Eminence made known. In short, “the organization is running in full speed”. Your Eminence, how are the preparations of the upcoming Assembly proceeding? “A team of experts has already examined the replies to the questionnaire and compiled a summary of the findings, presented at the ordinary Council of the Secretary on February 24 for a preliminary assessment. Coming May the same Council will adopt the document, the Instrumentum laboris, that will be sent to the members of the special general Assembly due to take place October 5-19. In the meantime the organization of the Assembly is running in full speed alongside with increasing initiatives promoted by national and regional bishops’ conferences, Catholic universities and Higher education institutions of religious sciences, Catholic families movements and associations worldwide”. The questionnaire sent to all world dioceses rose major interest on the part of the public opinion. This new form of consultation received ample consensus, as well as criticism. Is there a risk of having sparked off too many expectations that will not be satisfied? “Today the family is a crucial theme. Pope Francis, in addressing this theme is saying that the Church does not refrain from addressing challenges, but does with full responsibility. The Church wants to follow the present times, accompanying people, sharing joys and pain, hopes and human suffering, and she intends to do so with clarity, determination and truth. Expectation? The family is an overarching theme, and its multifaceted aspects should be addressed as a whole and according to their importance. The new methodology favours the approach of the themes and makes the Synod more dynamic”. Could you provide us a percentage of the answers you received? How many respondents? “To date (March 27, ed.’s note) we received more than 84% of the answers from the Bishops’ Conferences and over 70% from individual respondents. We received a great amount of filled-in questionnaires from individuals and groups”. What are the major challenges and the difficulties linked to family life and its crises? “They are outlined in the questionnaire. Others will be dealt with in the second stage of the Synod. The point of departure is the knowledge and the dissemination of Church teaching on marriage and the family, then comes the concept of natural law, evangelization, pastoral challenges that comprise various themes, followed by the phenomenon of cohabitation and de facto unions, separated or divorced couples, civilly remarried divorcees, along with other problematic situations highlighted in the questionnaire. It should be said that the questionnaire was sent to 114 Bishops’ Conferences worldwide, each of which has its own culture and traditions. Christ’s message is addressed to ‘all creatures’ alike. Thus the challenge of the Church is to make it known in its integrity in full respect of the different cultures”. Could the new phase in the – albeit brief – history of the Synod and the importance given by the Pope to this institution confer a new role to it? What could it be inside the Church? “Next year the Synod celebrates 50 years since its establishment. Pope Francis intends to boost the dynamism and the Synod’s performance for its universal pastoral governance. The Synod is seen as a point of reference for dioceses and parishes, as well as for other Church institutions, favouring the participation of the faithful by involving them in pastoral activity according to their functions and charismas”. What are the upcoming commitments of the Synod? “At present we are preparing the special Synod of the coming October with a view to the 2015 ordinary Synod, on the same theme, broadened and more exhaustive. The two Synods are connected and complement each other”.
Card. Baldisseri, general Secretary, draws a balance of the October Assembly