NEW ORLEANS — The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said that October’s Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family will reflect the cares and concerns of the Church from around the world, not merely in Western Catholicism.
“The good news is that many of the delegates who will be there are presidents of episcopal conferences from all over the world, and so that will involve a richness,” Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., said June 11. “There is something very healthy about that process of the synod bringing together, really, the universal Church.”
Bishops from around the world will gather in Rome Oct. 5-19 to discuss “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.”
Earlier in the day, Archbishop Kurtz had spoken to the assembled bishops from across the U.S. to present a general view of their recent consultation with the faithful in preparation for the synod — a process typical of synods in the past.
He said that the document for that consultation “has a four-page introduction, and you’ll be surprised to see how many of the issues that are raised deal with those related to Asia, Africa and other places.”
Although “there is no guarantee” what the synod will discuss in particular, he said one is “absolutely right in raising questions” about the scope of concerns that will be raised.
While much discussion over the synod in the West has focused on admitting persons who are divorced and remarried to Communion, Catholics living as minorities in the rest of the world face issues including cultural acceptance of the forced marriage of young girls, as in Senegal, and those which accept polygamy — which was formally legalized in Kenya in April.
Considering the theme of the synod, Archbishop Kurtz commented that, “in many ways, when we use the word challenge, how could we not almost immediately think, 'Well, what are the challenges here in the United States?' And I hope they will be addressed; but in addition to that, you’re right, there will be that openness.”
“I will say this: One of the things that I learned the most when I went to the Synod for the New Evangelization ... it was eye-opening for me to listen to other bishops from other parts of the world, and then I thought, ‘Gee, the issues on New Evangelization that they have are little different in their challenges.’”
“By the way, let me say one other thing: When we look at the instrumentum laboris, we will be able to make a kind of initial question: ‘Are some of the issues being raised here related only to the United States and Europe or to other parts of the world as well?’”
The instrumentum laboris is the synod's “working document,” prepared by the synod council and based on consultations with bishops and faithful around the world. The document has been prepared already in Italian and will be translated and distributed by the end of June.
“I am going to be looking to see what the instrumentum laboris says about challenges,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “What I am told, and this is very, very, wise, is we begin with a wider scope of: What does it mean to renew marriage and renew family?”
He continued, saying that, “if you listen to what our Holy Father has said recently, he says: Don’t too narrowly limit it to any one situation. But you and I both know Pope Francis, and we know that when he talks about wanting to see the person first, he wants to see the person who is hurting, and he wants to accompany and reach out to that person. It would jump the gun to say ahead of time, ‘Well, this is exactly what the response will be.’
“I will say that we are going to be looking at the challenge within the context of the gift of the Church's teachings. So if there is a light shining on a particular issue, it’s going to be the Church’s teachings, and that’s what I think Pope Francis is asking us to do.”