The major Vatican summit (or “synod”) on marriage and the family, which begins Sunday, will be characterized by “broad-ranging freedom of expression” and “respect for every position,” says Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the synod’s organizer.
These remarks came after a period of public, sometimes heated, disagreement among high-ranking church officials over possible changes in church discipline.
According to Baldisseri, it was Pope Francis’ wish to “undertake an innovative and original Synodal path.”
Preparation for the synod involved an unprecedented survey of Catholics, aimed at better understanding the real lives of the faithful throughout the world. Responses ranged over a broad spectrum, indicating “the frankness and freeness” with which the consultation was carried out, said Baldisseri. It resounded with “the voice of all of the People of God,” he added.
Another innovation in this synod, said Baldisseri, is its two-part structure. The first part, which begins Sunday, is called an “Extraordinary Assembly,” to be followed by an “Ordinary Assembly” to take place a year from now. The drawn-out nature of the meeting assures plenty of time to think through the issues without jumping to any “quick fixes.”
Moreover, though much attention has been paid to hot-button issues, such as the annulment process and Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, a majority of the meeting will be dedicated to other issues. Though less controversial, discussions of how to better prepare for marriage and make it last will be at least as important as debating what to do when marriages fail.