The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, has said he thinks Pope Francis will write an apostolic exhortation on the Synod on the Family, and that it will be published “relatively quickly”.

In an Oct. 29 interview with Vatican Radio’s Italian edition, he said “I think that this time it will happen”, but added that “so far there has been absolutely no talk about this. It’s up to the Pope to decide what to do.” 

A post-synodal apostolic exhortation is a papal summary of a synod and has less magisterial weight than an encyclical or apostolic constitution. 

There have been frequent calls for such a document from the Holy Father in order to help clear up confusion over the Church's doctrine on marriage and the family which some said appeared to be "up for grabs" during the synodal process. 

Cardinal Parolin noted that, at the very end of the synod’s final report, the synod fathers invited Pope Francis to consider writing a document on the family so “Christ, the light of the world, can shine ever more in the domestic Church.”

He said he did not know how long it will take to be published. "It's not for me to decide," he said, but said he imagined it "will not be long because usually these things need to be done relatively quickly otherwise they lose a bit of their strength, their impact." He added: "I think if the Pope decides to do it, he'll do it relatively quickly." 

The cardinal’s comments follow those of the superior general of the Society of Jesus, Father Adolfo Nicolàs, who told Corriere della Sera this week that he believes there will be an apostolic exhortation. “I do not believe it will come out late – after one year – as happened in other synods and with other popes,” he said.

“A year is too much. Experts in management tell me that if eight months pass by without saying anything then people return to the starting point and it’s necessary to re-do the whole process. I believe that Francis will be more rapid in preparing it.”

Father Nicolàs, who took part in the synod, also said the Church has “always been weak when it comes to follow-up,” but, “the fruit of the synod cannot just be a document, however good.”

He said: “The fruit [of the synod] is practical: what is done, what happens in the pastoral situation, in the parishes when people start asking. It’s there that one sees [the follow up].”

He also said the “ideal follow-up” would consist of “particular synods” whereby each bishop holds a synod with “his people, both priests and laity” to discuss ways of best realizing the possibilities raised at the Synod on the Family.