VATICAN CITY — The Vatican spokesman said today that the leaking of a private letter sent to the Holy Father to bring to his attention some concerns about the synod on family unnecessarily disrupted the meeting.
Father Federico Lombardi told reporters that the “disruption” was unintended by the most authoritative signatories of the letter, and so “it would be inappropriate to allow it to have any influence.”
It was the first time Father Lombardi admitted the existence of the letter, published in full yesterday by veteran Vatican watcher Sandro Magister, but which was first revealed in some detail by fellow Vaticanista Andrea Tornielli last week. At a briefing yesterday, Father Lombardi said he had “nothing to confirm about the document, as it was a confidential one.”
One of the signatories of the letter, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas, Venezuela, told the Register Oct. 13 that the incident is a “storm in a teacup” and that the matter “is a very small thing compared with the wonderful work that’s being done by the almost 400 people working at the synod.”
The letter alerted the Holy Father to some concerns regarding the composition and selection process of the drafting committee for the synod’s final report, the quality of the instrumentum laboris (working document) and excessive emphasis on the “theological/doctrinal issue of Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried.”
Cardinal Urosa stressed it was a “private letter” and “written with great respect, as you can see in the text.” It was sent to the Holy Father “in a spirit of trust and loyalty,” to express our “concern about a few things that we thought should be improved concerning the synod.”
He likewise stressed it wasn’t meant to made public, nor did the signatories want to make “any trouble or scandal,” the cardinal added. “That’s not our method. We are men of the Church, we stand by the Holy Father, we chose him, and we don’t want to create any problem at all for the synod.”
Cardinal Urosa said it “wasn’t right” to leak it, but he said “many cardinals” had copies of the letter, and so it would be easy for someone to give it to the public, even though it was confidential.
Some supposed signatories have since disavowed signing it. They are Cardinals Andre Vingt-Trois, Angelo Scola, Mauro Piacenza, Peter Erdo and, today, Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City.
Cardinal Wilfrid Napier who, along with Cardinal Vingt-Trois is one of the synod’s five co-presidents, said yesterday he signed a similar letter but not the exact one Magister reported. Today, Father Lombardi said Cardinal Napier “has expressly asked me to clarify the comments published in an interview with Crux, which do not correspond to his opinion.”
Added the Vatican spokesman, “With regard to the composition of the ‘commission of the 10’ for the final text, it was incorrectly written that the cardinal ‘would actually challenge Pope Francis’ right to choose that.’”
“Cardinal Napier has requested that this be corrected, affirming the exact opposite: that ‘no one challenges Pope Francis’ right to choose that,’” Father Lombardi said.
Yesterday, Cardinal George Pell, one of the signatories of the letter, said there were “errors in both the content and the list of signatories” in the version published by Magister.
Cardinal Urosa said Magister’s version was correct, except for a paragraph on a “very minor point, where it makes comparison with the Protestant churches.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.