Relatio Finalis Delivered to Synod Fathers Ahead of Saturday's Vote

(photo: Register Files)

VATICAN CITY -- Between September 26 and October 25, 1980, the “Pope of the Family” presided over the Fifth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Pope St. John Paul II convened that meeting in Rome to discuss the “Christian Family.” A little over a year later, on November 22, 1981, it resulted in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, entitled in Latin Familiaris Consortio.

That document has been the subject of some discussion during recent Synod briefings at the Holy See Press Office. Whether this year’s Synod will issue a document much like that one remains to be seen.

But, on the memorial of St. John Paul II, the Synod fathers received an early indication of things to come.


Inside the St. John Paul II Hall at the Vatican today, Cardinal Oswald Gracias from Mumbai in India responded to questions from journalists at this afternoon’s briefing. He is one of ten members of the Council of Cardinal Advisers assisting Pope Francis in the governance of the universal Church. This month, he is also a select member of the commission responsible for the elaboration or drafting of the Relatio Finalis (or, final [synodal] report) – a document to be submitted to the Pope following a vote Saturday morning.

At this afternoon’s press conference, the cardinal announced that an Italian language edition of the final report of this month’s three-week-long synodal assembly is now in the hands of the 270 bishops who have been meeting with the Pope. Ahead of the document’s dissemination, Pope Francis met with its members for six or seven minutes in order to offer them an encouraging word.

Cardinal Gracias indicated the draft was released this afternoon in an effort to allow the Synod fathers sufficient time to digest it and write amendments (called ‘modi’) that will be submitted during tomorrow’s plenary sessions. On Saturday morning, the final draft will be read aloud from the floor of the synod aula. While it is for the Pope to decide, Cardinal Gracias said he expects there will be a vote on the whole of the document and each of its numbered paragraphs in the afternoon.

The cardinal told reporters that his commission did not write the report itself, but it had the task of sifting through some seven or eight hundred modi submitted by the thirteen different circuli minori or small groups. Rather, its task was to serve as an editorevaluating the various suggestions made during the synodal discussions, ‘reconciling’ the many modi into a single fabric that represented the ‘mind of the house,’ and ultimately approving the content of the final report.

To accomplish this task, the commission divided itself into three distinct groups, which tackled distinct sets of amendments and forwarded its work to the writing group. Throughout its proceedings, the commission remained mindful of the fact that its role was to incorporate all views, but at the same time provide a pastoral direction for the Church. One result has been that the text concerns and proposes pastoral approaches that are acceptable to all, according to Cardinal Gracias.

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops undertook to write the report itself. But, having seen it, Cardinal Gracias believes and hope it will be accepted approvingly by the assembly, leaving little more work for the commission to do Saturday night. Already, the ten-person writing commission voted unanimously in support of the document, according to Cardinal Gracias.

Apparently, the document comprises some one hundred numbered paragraphs, making it shorter than some had anticipated. Even still, the text could be further shortened through the remaining amendment and revision process. Cardinal Gracias told journalists they should not anticipate too many specifics in the final report, which is largely comprised of ‘general directions.’ He said the document “doesn’t get into very, very specific points.”

At this juncture, Cardinal Gracias has told us that the final document is addressed to Pope Francis, not the world. And in accordance with a suggestion from the German Synod fathers, it is presented as “reflections for the Holy Father” to consider.