This Extraordinary General Assembly was announced last month by Pope Francis, and will be convened 5-18 October, 2014.
During the briefing, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, explained the theme of the Synod, which “reflects very well the pastoral zeal with which the Holy Father wishes to approach the proclamation of the Gospel to the family in today’s world." It will be explored in two phases: first, through the General Assembly in 2014, and secondly through an Ordinary General Assembly scheduled for 2015. This second gathering will develop “working approaches for the pastoral care of the human person and the family.”
Archbishop Baldisseri also noted that the convocation of an Extraordinary General Assembly responds to a subject that both regards the “good of the universal Church” and “requires rapid definition,” according to Ordo Synodi Episcoporum (cf. Art . 4 § 2). “It is evident,” he said, “that the social and spiritual crisis of today’s world has an impact on family life and creates a situation of genuine pastoral urgency, which justifies the convocation of an Extraordinary General Assembly.”
The archbishop said that, in preparation for next year’s Synod, the fifth Meeting of the Ordinary Synod Council took place on 7-8 October, during which a Preparatory Document was prepared. He explained that the contents of this document include a general presentation on the subject, biblical and magisterial quotations on the theme, and a questionnaire on the main challenges faced by families today.
Giving further details on the Preparatory Document was Cardinal Péter Erdő, president of the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe. He noted that the document “clearly references canonical and pastoral aspects regarding the issue at large.”
He said: “The family appears as a reality that springs from the will of the Creator and that constitutes a social reality. It is not, therefore, a mere invention of human society or, much less, of some purely human power, but rather a natural reality that has been elevated by Christ the Lord in the context of divine grace.”
The document includes a series of questions pertaining to the pastoral care of families in modern times. These questions touch on various themes, falling under headings such as “Marriage According to Natural Law,” “Pastoral Care in Certain Difficult Marital Situations,” and “On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex.”
Additional remarks were given by Archbishop Bruno Forte, who is serving as Special Secretary for the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Through this Synod, he said, the Church is invited “to listen to the problems and expectations of many families today, manifesting her closeness and credibly proposing God’s mercy and the beauty of responding to His call.”
He continued: “In a context such as that of the so-called ‘liquid modernity’ (Zygmunt Bauman), in which no value seems to be proven and the institution of the family is often contested, if not entirely negated, it becomes particularly significant to demonstrate the profoundly humanising characteristics of the Christian proposal of the family, which is never against anyone, but always and exclusively in favour of the dignity and the beauty of life of the full person, for every person, for the good of society as a whole.”