Synod15 – 18ma Congregazione generale: Discorso del Santo Padre a conclusione dei lavori della XIV Assemblea generale ordinaria del Sinodo dei Vescovi, 24.10.2015
Dear Beatitudes, Eminences and Excellencies,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like first of all to thank the Lord, who has guided our synodal
process in these years by his Holy Spirit, whose support is never
lacking to the Church.
My heartfelt thanks go to Cardinal Lorenzo
Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, its
Under-Secretary, and, together with them, the Relator, Cardinal Peter
Erdő, and the Special Secretary, Archbishop Bruno Forte, the Delegate
Presidents, the writers, consultors and translators, and all those who
have worked tirelessly and with total dedication to the Church: My
I likewise thank all of you, dear Synod Fathers,
Fraternal Delegates, Auditors and Assessors, parish priests and
families, for your active and fruitful participation.
And I thank
all those unnamed men and women who contributed generously to the
labours of this Synod by quietly working behind the scenes.
Be assured of my prayers, that the Lord will reward all of you with his abundant gifts of grace!
As I followed the labours of the Synod, I asked myself: What will it mean for the Church to conclude this Synod devoted to the family?
Certainly, the Synod was not about settling all the issues having to do
with the family, but rather attempting to see them in the light of the
Gospel and the Church’s tradition and two-thousand-year history,
bringing the joy of hope without falling into a facile repetition of
what is obvious or has already been said.
Surely it was not about
finding exhaustive solutions for all the difficulties and uncertainties
which challenge and threaten the family, but rather about seeing these
difficulties and uncertainties in the light of the Faith, carefully
studying them and confronting them fearlessly, without burying our heads
in the sand.
It was about urging everyone to appreciate the
importance of the institution of the family and of marriage between a
man and a woman, based on unity and indissolubility, and valuing it as
the fundamental basis of society and human life.
It was about
listening to and making heard the voices of the families and the
Church’s pastors, who came to Rome bearing on their shoulders the
burdens and the hopes, the riches and the challenges of families
throughout the world.
It was about showing the vitality of the
Catholic Church, which is not afraid to stir dulled consciences or to
soil her hands with lively and frank discussions about the family.
It was about trying to view and interpret realities, today’s realities,
through God’s eyes, so as to kindle the flame of faith and enlighten
people’s hearts in times marked by discouragement, social, economic and
moral crisis, and growing pessimism.
It was about bearing witness
to everyone that, for the Church, the Gospel continues to be a vital
source of eternal newness, against all those who would “indoctrinate” it
in dead stones to be hurled at others.
It was also about laying
closed hearts, which bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even
behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the
chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and
superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families.
about making clear that the Church is a Church of the poor in spirit and
of sinners seeking forgiveness, not simply of the righteous and the
holy, but rather of those who are righteous and holy precisely when they
feel themselves poor sinners.
It was about trying to open up
broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered
viewpoints, so as to defend and spread the freedom of the children of
God, and to transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted
in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible.
the course of this Synod, the different opinions which were freely
expressed – and at times, unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning
ways – certainly led to a rich and lively dialogue; they offered a vivid
image of a Church which does not simply “rubberstamp”, but draws from
the sources of her faith living waters to refresh parched hearts.1
And – apart from dogmatic questions clearly defined by the Church’s
Magisterium – we have also seen that what seems normal for a bishop on
one continent, is considered strange and almost scandalous for a bishop
from another; what is considered a violation of a right in one society
is an evident and inviolable rule in another; what for some is freedom
of conscience is for others simply confusion. Cultures are in fact quite
diverse, and each general principle needs to be inculturated, if it is
to be respected and applied.2 The 1985 Synod, which celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, spoke of inculturation
as “the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through
their integration in Christianity, and the taking root of Christianity
in the various human cultures”.3 Inculturation does
not weaken true values, but demonstrates their true strength and
authenticity, since they adapt without changing; indeed they quietly and
gradually transform the different cultures.4
seen, also by the richness of our diversity, that the same challenge is
ever before us: that of proclaiming the Gospel to the men and women of
today, and defending the family from all ideological and individualistic
And without ever falling into the danger of relativism or of demonizing
others, we sought to embrace, fully and courageously, the goodness and
mercy of God who transcends our every human reckoning and desires only
that “all be saved” (cf. 1 Tm 2:4). In this way we wished to
experience this Synod in the context of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy
which the Church is called to celebrated.
The Synod experience also made us better realize that the true defenders
of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not
ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and
forgiveness. This is in no way to detract from the importance of
formulae, laws and divine commandments, but raather to exalt the
greatness of the true God, who does not treat us according to our merits
or even according to our works but solely according to the boundless generosity of his Mercy (cf. Rom 3:21-30; Ps 129; Lk 11:37-54). It does have to do with overcoming the recurring temptations of the elder brother (cf. Lk 15:25-32) and the jealous labourers (cf. Mt 20:1-16). Indeed, it means upholding all the more the laws and commandments which were made for man and not vice versa (cf. Mk 2:27).
In this sense, the necessary human repentance, works and efforts take
on a deeper meaning, not as the price of that salvation freely won for
us by Christ on the cross, but as a response to the One who loved us
first and saved us at the cost of his innocent blood, while we were
still sinners (cf. Rom 5:6).
The Church’s first duty is
not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s
mercy, to call to conversion, and to lead all men and women to salvation
in the Lord (cf. Jn 12:44-50).
Blessed Paul VI expressed
this eloquently: “”We can imagine, then, that each of our sins, our
attempts to turn our back on God, kindles in him a more intense flame of
love, a desire to bring us back to himself and to his saving plan… God,
in Christ, shows himself to be infinitely good… God is good. Not only
in himself; God is – let us say it with tears – good for us. He loves
us, he seeks us out, he thinks of us, he knows us, he touches our hearts
us and he waits for us. He will be – so to say – delighted on the day
when we return and say: ‘Lord, in your goodness, forgive me. Thus our
repentance becomes God’s joy”.5
Saint John Paul II
also stated that: “the Church lives an authentic life when she professes
and proclaims mercy… and when she brings people close to the sources of
the Saviour’s mercy, of which she is the trustee and dispenser”.6
Benedict XVI, too, said: “Mercy is indeed the central nucleus of the
Gospel message; it is the very name of God… May all that the Church says
and does manifest the mercy God feels for mankind. When the Church has
to recall an unrecognized truth, or a betrayed good, she always does so
impelled by merciful love, so that men may have life and have it
abundantly (cf. Jn 10:10)”.7
In light of all
this, and thanks to this time of grace which the Church has experienced
in discussing the family, we feel mutually enriched. Many of us have
felt the working of the Holy Spirit who is the real protagonist and
guide of the Synod. For all of us, the word “family” has a new
resonance, so much so that the word itself already evokes the richness
of the family’s vocation and the significance of the labours of the
In effect, for the Church to conclude the Synod means to return
to our true “journeying together” in bringing to every part of the
world, to every diocese, to every community and every situation, the
light of the Gospel, the embrace of the Church and the support of God’s