“The word mother can be traced back cleanly to Proto-Indo-European, as can father, brother and sister — it appears in cognate form in languages like Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, and so forth, and it may go back further.” —Discussion of the origin of the word “mother” on an internet page (link)
“The crisis which the Western society is undergoing has primarily spiritual roots. Secular society without God naively believes that while exploiting only their own proprietary and consumer instincts it would be able to successfully regulate the growth of well-being, thus achieving prosperity and justice. However, the tragic experience of the entire 20th century has vividly shown that the renunciation of God and His commandments does not lead people to happiness, but, on the contrary, brings about numerous disasters and sufferings.” —Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, the “foreign minister” of the Russian Orthodox Church, speaking as a guest of the Synod of Bishops in Rome on October 20; his complete talk is included below at the end of this email (link)
“We must continue on this path. The world in which we live and that we are called to love and serve even with its contradictions, demands from the Church the Church the strengthening of synergies in all areas of her mission. And it is precisely on this way of synodality where we find the pathway that God expects from the Church of the third millennium.”—Pope Francis, October 17, in his important, and controversial, address on Church government and the role of the Synod in that process (the entire text is included below)
“Today, when the world ever more resembles that foolish man ‘which built his house on the sand’ (Matt. 7: 26) it is the Church’s duty to remind the society of its firm foundation of the family as a union between a man and woman created with the purpose of giving birth to and bringing up children. Only this type of family, as ordained by the Lord when he created the world, can forestall or at least halt temporarily modern-day society’s further descent into the abyss of moral relativism. The Orthodox Church, like the Catholic Church, has always in her teaching followed Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition in asserting the principle of the sanctity of marriage founded on the Saviour’s own words (Matt. 19: 6; Mk. 10: 9). In our time this position should be ever more strengthened and unanimous.” —Metropolitan Hilarion, ibid.
The Synod on the Family is about to end.
During Saturday, October 24, the Synod will hear the proposed final document read out loud, and will vote on that document.
The document will then go to Pope Francis.
It is not yet clear whether the Pope will order the final document to be published immediately, or keep it private. We should know the answer in a few hours.
The True Story of the Synod Is Yet To Be Written — And May Never Be
Clearly, this Synod has been important, dramatic, historic — and confusing.
Important because the family is at the center of every human society. Each human being has a mother and father. The words for “mother” and “father” are ancient — they go back to before the dawn of recorded time. To discuss what a family is, how it can be strong, how the children of a family can be cared for and grow into adults, is therefore profoundly important. And efforts to “re-engineer” the family are at the core or many conflicting “utopian” (often in fact dystopian) visions for our world and our human future.
Dramatic, because bishops and cardinals and lay people from Poland and the United States, from Germany and from all over Africa, from Romania and from India, have passionately expressed their vision for the family, and for the Church.
Historic, not so much because it occurs 50 years after the Second Vatican Council, but more because it occurs at the very moment that enormous societal transformations are occurring in Western and “global” society — in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, in China, India and Russia — as the “globalizing” world attempts to determine how much to retain of the wisdom of traditional human society and how much of the new secular humanist worldview, including a new “gender agenda,” to embrace.
Confusing, because what has happened — the arguments, the claims, the counterclaims, the questions, the partial answers, the motivations stated and not stated — do not fully explain this event, this Synod.
This Synod eludes full comprehension.
It eludes full comprehension in the way that the resignation of Pope Benedict in 2013 still eludes full comprehension.
This explains why there are so many conflicting narratives, after three weeks of Synod meetings, about what actually has been happening, and why.
Perhaps the final teaching of Pope Benedict before his resignation, when he spoke about the true meaning of the Second Vatican Council, and told us that there were really two Councils, the Council of the media, and the Council as it was, holds true here. Here is a link to that important teaching, which bears re-reading. (link)
In one central passage of this talk, Benedict said things that could apply to the Synod which is just ending.
In this passage, where the Emeritus Pope says “Council,” imagine that he is saying, “Synod on the Family.”
Pope Benedict said on February 14, 2013, three days after he announced he would resign:
“There was the Council of the Fathers – the real Council – but there was also the Council of the media.
“It was almost a Council apart, and the world perceived the Council through the latter, through the media.
“Thus, the Council that reached the people with immediate effect was that of the media, not that of the Fathers.
“And while the Council of the Fathers was conducted within the faith – it was a Council of faith seeking intellectus, seeking to understand itself and seeking to understand the signs of God at that time, seeking to respond to the challenge of God at that time and to find in the word of God a word for today and tomorrow – while all the Council, as I said, moved within the faith, as fides quaerens intellectum, the Council of the journalists, naturally, was not conducted within the faith, but within the categories of today’s media, namely apart from faith, with a different hermeneutic. It was a political hermeneutic: for the media, the Council was a political struggle, a power struggle between different trends in the Church.
“It was obvious that the media would take the side of those who seemed to them more closely allied with their world. There were those who sought the decentralization of the Church, power for the bishops and then, through the expression ‘People of God,’ power for the people, the laity.
“There was this threefold question: the power of the Pope, which was then transferred to the power of the bishops and the power of all – popular sovereignty.
“Naturally, for them, this was the part to be approved, to be promulgated, to be favoured.
“So too with the liturgy: there was no interest in liturgy as an act of faith, but as something where comprehensible things are done, a matter of community activity, something profane. And we know that there was a tendency, not without a certain historical basis, to say: sacrality is a pagan thing, perhaps also a thing of the Old Testament. In the New Testament it matters only that Christ died outside: that is, outside the gates, in the profane world. Sacrality must therefore be abolished, and profanity now spreads to worship: worship is no longer worship, but a community act, with communal participation: participation understood as activity.
“These translations, trivializations of the idea of the Council, were virulent in the process of putting the liturgical reform into practice; they were born from a vision of the Council detached from its proper key, that of faith. And the same applies to the question of Scripture: Scripture is a book, it is historical, to be treated historically and only historically, and so on.
“We know that this Council of the media was accessible to everyone. Therefore, this was the dominant one, the more effective one, and it created so many disasters, so many problems, so much suffering: seminaries closed, convents closed, banal liturgy … and the real Council had difficulty establishing itself and taking shape; the virtual Council was stronger than the real Council.”
[End, citation from Pope Benedict]
So, there have been “two Synods” — the Synod itself, and the Synod of the media.
Onlookers — including the bishops who are voting, and the journalists who have followed every twist and turn of this Synod — should keep this in mind.
Even after the voting tomorrow, we will not really know why the bishops voted as they did, and what they intend — or what the Holy Father intends.
We will have to wait for greater clarity.
The Vatican Press Office has posted all of the documents that were made public during the Synod on line at this link (link).
I think it is worth a few seconds to go look at what this link contains. (Note: the link contains all the press communiques including many not related to the Synod; if you click on links to the Synod communiques, they open up onto other pages which contain a wealth of information, like this link, which has the texts of all 13 of the “smaller groups” where the Synod proposals were discussed in language groups. These are “primary documents,” so if you wish to see for yourself what the official “primary sources” say, take a look as this and other daily links (link).
The Synod was also reported on in considerable detail by many journalists. In addition to the “heavyweights” in the media (AP, Reuters, daily papers like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal (which published an interesting op-ed by Archbishop CNN, etc.) it would be quite useful, if one would like to go deeper, to go to the smaller, specialized Il Sismografo, (which provided as many as 100 reports each day in five or more languages). Rome Reports, (which provided useful daily brief video reports) LifeSiteNews, Crux and John Allen, Sandro Magister (who focused during this Synod on the “Letter from the 13 Cardinals”), Edward Pentin, and Rorate Caeli (which offered links to news and interviews from a traditional Catholic perspective).
“With the Synod moving toward a conclusion, and the ‘Kasper proposal’ clearly lacking support among the bishops, the cabal that tried so hard to write the script for this Synod is now engaged in damage-control.
“Kasper does not have the votes in the Synod for his solution,” conceded Father Tom Reese in the National Catholic Reporter, even before the small-group reports made that result apparent to all.
Now he and his Jesuit confreres (Father Anthony Spadaro of Civilta Cattolica, Father James Martin of America) are taking a new line in their (many) public statements. Since the Synod will not yield the result they had hoped for, they’re advancing the line that the Synod isn’t really aimed at results after all.
“What’s important (according to this new narrative) is that the Synod raised questions. Now it’s up to the Pope, who will deliver the final product of the Synod, to give the answers.
“But will the Pope ignore the Synod fathers’ disapproval of the Kasper proposal—a disapproval which became so clear as the discussion progressed?
“Pope Francis, in his address to the bishops marking the 50th anniversary of the Synod — which was clearly one of the most important talks of his pontificate to date — stressed his “commitment to build a synodal-mission Church.”
“He explained: ‘A synodal Church is a Church of listening.’
“Having stressed so strongly that he would be listening to his bishops the Pope cannot blithely override their conclusion on the subject that generated the most attention during the Synod, without violating his own prescription for a healthy Church.
“But the liberal cabal will prod the Pope to do exactly that: to approve the Kasper proposal on his own, regardless of the Synod’s advice. Already they are promoting their own new narrative, in which the Synod fathers are benighted enemies of progress and the Pontiff is the only hope.
So, again, the final decision now rests with Pope Francis — and with whether the Church will follow Francis, when he announces his decisions.
In this context it becomes important to review what Francis said in his important talk on Synodality as a method of governing the Church, which he delivered on Saturday, October 17, a week ago…
Pope Francis: His Most Important Intervention during the Period of the Synod…
…and one of the most important talks of his pontificate (link).
Since the talk the Pope gave on Saturday, October 17 — on the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Synod as a Church institution by Pope Paul VI in 1965 — was the one time he spoke at length during the time-period of the Synod, it seems important that we read what he said.
Most commentators are saying that the Pope in this talk on “decentralizing” the government of the Church is opening the door to divisions in the Church, as different regions and cultures have different styles of Catholicism, with the danger of different doctrines.
The Catholic Church would thus lose one of its four identifying marks, its unity. (The four marks, as stated in the Creed, are that the Church is “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic”).
But I see in this talk, primarily, not an opening toward disunity, but an opening toward unity — with the Orthodox.
I see the talk as a gesture toward the Orthodox world, toward those Eastern Churches which broke with Rome in 1054 (the “Great Schism”) and have remained separate from Rome for almost 1,000 years.
Why? Because one of the profound reasons for this very division, which weakened Christianity profoundly, and so cried out even after 960 years to be overcome as soon as possible, was a dispute over the role of the Bishop of Rome in the universal Church.
Therefore, any hope of overcoming this division must include coming to an agreement on the role of the Bishop of Rome.
So, when the Pope speaks about the Synod as an institution which helps the Pope to govern the Church, he is speaking in a language which, at least in theory, might resonate with the Orthodox, who are governed precisely by Synods.
And so the main purpose of the Pope’s talk from last Saturday seems to me to be to open a way for closer relations with the Orthodox.
Here is a Vatican Radio summary of the Pope’s talk, then the talk itself.
Pope Francis Marks 50th Anniversary of Synod’s Institution at Special Ceremony
Pope Francis on Saturday morning, October 17, marked the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops as a permanent body.
Gathered with the Fathers of the XIV Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops – who are currently meeting in Rome to discuss the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in contemporary society – Pope Francis spoke of both the process and the substance of the Synod as constitutive and expressive of the Church’s own nature and mission.
“Journeying together,” said Pope Francis in an enlargement on the Greek words from which the English word ‘synod’ is derived, “laity, pastors, and the Bishop of Rome, is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice.”
The Holy Father went on to say that each and everyone has a place in the Church, and that the key to journeying well together is listening. “A synodal Church is a Church of listening,” said Pope Francis. “It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn: the faithful, the College of Bishops, [and the] Bishop of Rome; each listening to the others; and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the ‘Spirit of truth’ (Jn 14, 17), to know what he ‘says to the Churches’ (Rev 2: 7).”
“The Synod of Bishops,” continued Pope Francis, “is the convergence point of this dynamism – this listening conducted at all levels of Church life,” starting with the people, who “also participate in Christ’s prophetic office” and who have a right and a duty to be heard on topics that touch the common life of the Church.
Then come the Synod Fathers, through whom, “[T]he bishops act as true stewards, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church, which [they] must be able carefully to distinguish from often shifting public opinion.” In all this, the Successor to Peter is fundamental.
“Finally,” explained Pope Francis, “the synodal process culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, called upon to speak authoritatively [It. pronunciare] as ‘Shepherd and Teacher of all Christians’: not on the basis of his personal beliefs, but as the supreme witness of the Faith of the whole Church, the guarantor of the Church’s conformity with and obedience to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ and the Tradition of the Church.”
The Holy Father went on to explain that the Synod always always acts cum Petro et sub Petro – with Peter and under Peter – a fact that does not constitute a restriction of freedom, but a guarantee of unity. “In fact,” he said, “the Pope is, by the will of the Lord, ‘the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful’.”
The Pope’s Talk, October 17, 2015
(Translation from the original Italian by Father Thomas Rosica, who gave this headnote: “In the absence of an English language translation of Pope Francis’ very important address delivered this morning during the commemorative celebration for the Anniversary of the Synod of Bishops, I have prepared a working translation of the entire address here below. In due time the Synod Secretariat will release a translation. Due to the major historical and ecclesial importance of this address, and in response to many of your requests for a translation, I offer that to you below.)
Pope Francis’ Address at Commemorative Ceremony for the 50th Anniversary of the Synod of Bishops
October 17, 2015
Paul VI Audience Hall – Vatican City
[Working translation prepared by Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, English language media attaché, Holy See Press Office]
By Pope Francis
Your Beatitudes, Eminences, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,
As the XIV Ordinary General Assembly is underway, it is a joy for me to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops and to praise and honor the Lord for the Synod of Bishops. From the Second Vatican Council up to the current Synod on the Family, we have gradually learned of the necessity and beauty of “walking together.”
On this happy occasion I would like to extend a cordial greeting to His Eminence Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops along with the Undersecretary, His Excellency Archbishop Fabio Fabene, the Officials, the Consultors and other collaborators in the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. Together with them, I greet and thank the Synod Fathers and other participants in this Synod gathered here this morning in this hall.
At this time we also want to remember those who, over the course of the last 50 years, have worked in the service of the Synod, starting from the successive General Secretaries: Cardinals Władysław Rubin, Jozef Tomko, Jan Pieter Schotte and Archbishop Nikola Eterovic. I take this opportunity to express my deepest, heartfelt gratitude to those – both living and deceased – who made such generous and competent contributions to the activities of the Synod of Bishops.
From the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome I intended to enhance the Synod, which is one of the most precious legacies of the Second Vatican Council.
For Blessed Paul VI, the Synod of Bishops was meant to keep alive the image of the Ecumenical Council and to reflect the conciliar spirit and method. The same Pontiff desired that the synodal organism “over time would be greatly improved.”
Twenty years later, St. John Paul II would echo those sentiments when he stated that “perhaps this tool can be further improved. Perhaps the collegial pastoral responsibility can find even find a fuller expression in the Synod.”
Finally, in 2006, Benedict XVI approved some changes to the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, especially in light of the provisions of the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, promulgated in meantime.
We must continue on this path. The world in which we live and that we are called to love and serve even with its contradictions, demands from the Church the Church the strengthening of synergies in all areas of her mission. And it is precisely on this way of synodality where we find the pathway that God expects from the Church of the third millennium.
In a certain sense, what the Lord asks of us is already contained in the word “synod.”
Walking together – Laity, Pastors, the Bishop of Rome – is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice. After reiterating that People of God is comprised of all the baptized who are called to “be a spiritual edifice and a holy priesthood,” the Second Vatican Council proclaims that “the whole body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief and manifests this reality in the supernatural sense of faith of the whole people, when ‘from the bishops to the last of the lay faithful’ show their total agreement in matters of faith and morals.”
In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium I stressed that “the people of God is holy because this anointing makes [the people] infallible “in matters of belief”, adding that “each baptized person, no matter what their function is in the Church and whatever educational level of faith, is an active subject of evangelization and it would be inappropriate to think of a framework of evangelization carried out by qualified actors in which the rest of the faithful People were only recipients of their actions. The sensus fidei prevents rigid separation between “Ecclesia” (Church) and the Church teaching, and learning (Ecclesia docens discens), since even the Flock has an “instinct” to discern the new ways that the Lord is revealing to the Church.
It was this conviction that guided me when I desired that God’s people would be consulted in the preparation of the two-phased synod on the family. Certainly, a consultation like this would never be able to hear the entire sensus fidei (sense of the faith). But how would we ever be able to speak about the family without engaging families, listening to their joys and their hopes, their sorrows and their anguish? Through the answers to the two questionnaires sent to the particular Churches, we had the opportunity to at least hear some of the people on those issues that closely affect them and about which they have much to say.
A synodal church is a listening church, knowing that listening “is more than feeling.” It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. Faithful people, the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Rome: we are one in listening to others; and all are listening to the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:17), to know what the Spirit “is saying to the Churches” (Rev 2:7).
The Synod of Bishops is the convergence point of this dynamic of listening conducted at all levels of church life. The synodal process starts by listening to the people, who “even participate in the prophetic office of Christ”, according to a principle dear to the Church of the first millennium: “Quod omnes tangit ab omnibus tractari debet” [what concerns all needs to be debated by all]. The path of the Synod continues by listening to the pastors. Through the Synod Fathers, the bishops act as true stewards, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church, who must be able to carefully distinguish from that which flows from frequently changing public opinion.
On the eve of the Synod of last year I stated: “First of all, let us ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of listening for the Synod Fathers, so that with the Spirit, we might be able to hear the cry of the people and listen to the people until we breathe the will to which God calls us.”
Finally, the synodal process culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, who is called upon to pronounce as “pastor and teacher of all Christians,” not based on his personal convictions but as a supreme witness of “totius fides Ecclesiae” (the whole faith of the Church), of the guarantor of obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ and to the Tradition of the Church.
The fact that the Synod always act, cum Petro et sub Petro — therefore not only cum Petro, but also sub Petro — this is not a restriction of freedom, but a guarantee of unity. In fact the Pope, by the will of the Lord, is “the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops as much as of the multitude of the faithful.” To this is connected the concept of “ierarchica communio” (hierarchical communio) used by Vatican II: the Bishops being united with the Bishop of Rome by the bond of episcopal communion (cum Petro) and at the same time hierarchically subjected to him as head of the college (sub Petro).
As a constitutive dimension of the Church, synodality gives us the more appropriate interpretive framework to understand the hierarchical ministry. If we understand as St. John Chrysostom did, that “Church and synod are synonymous,” since the Church means nothing other than the common journey of the Flock of God along the paths of history towards the encounter of Christ Lord, then we understand that within the Church, no one can be raised up higher than the others. On the contrary, in the Church, it is necessary that each person be “lowered ” in order to serve his or her brothers and sisters along the way.
Jesus founded the Church by placing at its head the Apostolic College, in which the apostle Peter is the “rock” (cfr. Mt 16:18), the one who will confirm his brothers in the faith (cfr. Lk 22: 32). But in this church, as in an inverted pyramid, the summit is located below the base. For those who exercise this authority are called “ministers” because, according to the original meaning of the word, they are the least of all. It is in serving the people of God that each Bishop becomes for that portion of the flock entrusted to him, vicarius Christi, (vicar of that Jesus who at the Last Supper stooped to wash the feet of the Apostles (cfr. Jn 13: 1-15 ). And in a similar manner, the Successor of Peter is none other than the servus servorum Dei (Servant of the servants of God).
Let us never forget this!
For the disciples of Jesus, yesterday, today and always, the only authority is the authority of the service, the only power is the power of the cross, in the words of the Master: “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their leaders oppress them. It shall not be so among you: but whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave” (Mt 20:25-27).
“It shall not be so among you:” in this expression we touch the heart of the mystery of the Church and receive the necessary light to understand hierarchical service.
In a Synodal Church, the Synod of Bishops is only the most obvious manifestation of a dynamism of communion that inspires all ecclesial decisions.
The first level of exercise of synodality is realized in the particular (local) Churches. After having recalled the noble institution of the diocesan Synod, in which priests and laity are called to collaborate with the Bishop for the good of the whole ecclesial community, the Code of Canon Law devotes ample space to those that are usually called “bodies of communion” in the local Church: the Council of Priests, the College of Consultors, the Chapter of Canons and the Pastoral Council. Only to the extent that these organizations are connected with those on the ground, and begin with the people and their everyday problems, can a Synodal Church begin to take shape: even when they may proceed with fatigue, they must be understood as occasions of listening and sharing.
The second level is that of Ecclesiastical Provinces and Regions, of Particular (local Councils) and in a special way, Episcopal Conferences. We must reflect on realizing even more through these bodies – the intermediary aspects of collegiality – perhaps perhaps by integrating and updating some aspects of early church order. The hope of the Council that such bodies would help increase the spirit of episcopal collegiality has not yet been fully realized. As I have said, “In a Church Synod it is not appropriate for the Pope to replace the local Episcopates in the discernment of all the problems that lie ahead in their territories. In this sense, I feel the need to proceed in a healthy “decentralization.”
The last level is that of the universal Church. Here the Synod of Bishops, representing the Catholic episcopate, becomes an expression of episcopal collegiality inside a church that is synodal. It manifests the affective collegiality, which may well become in some circumstances “effective,” joining the Bishops among themselves and with the Pope in the solicitude for the People God.
The commitment to build a Synodal Church to which all are called – each with his or her role entrusted to them by the Lord is loaded with ecumenical implications. For this reason, talking recently to a delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, I reiterated the conviction that “careful consideration of how to articulate in the Church’s life the principle of collegiality and the service of the one who presides offers a significant contribution to the progress of relations between our Churches.”
I am convinced that in a synodal Church, the exercise of the Petrine primacy will receive greater light. The Pope is not, by himself, above the Church; but inside it as one baptized among the baptized, and within the College of Bishops as Bishop among Bishops; as one called at the same time as Successor of Peter – to lead the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches.
While I reiterate the need and urgency to think of ” a conversion of the papacy,” I gladly repeat the words of my predecessor Pope John Paul II: “As Bishop of Rome I know well […] that the full and visible communion of all the communities in which, by virtue of God’s faithfulness, his Spirit dwells, is the ardent desire of Christ. I am convinced that you have in this regard a special responsibility, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian Communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a form of exercise of the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation.”
Our gaze extends also to humanity. A synodal Church is like a banner lifted up among the nations (cfr. Is 11:12) in a world that even though invites participation, solidarity and transparency in public administration – often hands over the destiny of entire populations into the greedy hands of restricted groups of the powerful. As a Church that “walks together” with men and women, sharing the hardships of history, let us cultivate the dream that the rediscovery of the inviolable dignity of peoples and the exercise of authority, even now will be able to help civil society to be founded on justice and fraternity, generating a more beautiful and worthy world for mankind and for the generations that will come after us.
A Russian View
In this context, it seems interesting to take note of what one of the Orthodox guests at the Synod had to say.
I am referring to Metropolitan Hilarion, the “foreign minister” of the Russian Orthodox Church.
He spoke toward the end of the Synod, on October 20, three days after the address of Pope Francis published above.
I quote from the Metropolitan’s website (link):
“On October 19, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR), arrived in Rome with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to attend as an observer from the Russian Orthodox Church the plenary session of the 14th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church on the ‘Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.’
“Metropolitan Hilarion was met at the airport by H.E. Alexander Avdeyev, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Holy See; archimandrite Antony (Sevryuk), secretary of the Administration of the Moscow Patriarchate’s parishes in Italy; Rev. Hyacinthe Destivelle of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; and Rev. Alexiy Dikarev of the DECR Secretariat for Inter-Christian Relations.
“On October 20, at the Paul VI Audience Hall in Vatican City where the Synod holds its sessions, the plenary session chaired by Pope Francis opened with Metropolitan Hilarion’s greetings. Speaking about challenges and threats to the family in the contemporary world Metropolitan Hilarion underscored that the Christian Churches should “seek out answers to them, proceeding from the mission that Christ has placed upon them – to bring humanity to salvation” and regretted that certain communities, which call themselves Christian, distort the teaching on the family and marriage under the influence of the secular world and are prepared to abandon their Christian identity.
“Under the circumstances the position of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches which remain faithful to the traditional teaching on the family ‘should be ever more strengthened and unanimous. We should defend it jointly both within the framework of dialogue with the legislative and executive branches of power of various countries, as well as in the forums of international organizations to ensure by all means possible that the family is legally protected.’
“Greeting Metropolitan Hilarion during the session were Pope Francis; Cardinal Pietro Parolin, State Secretary of the Holy See; Cardinal Bechara Al-Rai, Patriarch of the Maronite Church; Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family; other members of the Synod, as well as representatives of the Non-Catholic Churches and communities.
“Attending the Synod’s sessions are observers from the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Moscow, Serbia and Romania, the Orthodox Church of Albania, the Coptic and Jacobite Syrian Churches, the Anglican Communion; the Lutheran World Federation, the World Methodist Council, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Baptist World Alliance and the World Evangelical Alliance.
“At the evening session hold in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI and 242 members of the Synod, Metropolitan Hilarion addressed the audience with the following greeting.”
Hilarion’s October 20 Address
“The salt which has lost its savour are those Protestant communities which call themselves Christian, but which preach moral ideals incompatible with Christianity”
By Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev
Your Beatitudes, Eminences and Excellencies!
On behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus I extend fraternal greetings to you on the occasion of the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church on the theme of the family.
In our restless and disturbing world the human person needs a firm and unshakeable foundation upon which he can rest and upon which he can build his life with confidence.
At the same time, secular society, aimed primarily at the gratification of individual needs, is incapable of giving the human person clear moral direction.
The crisis of traditional values which we see in the consumer society leads to a contradiction between various preferences, including those in the realm of family relationships.
Thus, feminism views motherhood as an obstacle to a woman’s self-realization, while by contrast having a baby is more often proclaimed as a right to be attained by all means possible.
More often the family is viewed as a union of persons irrespective of their gender, and the human person can ‘choose’ his or her gender according to personal taste.
On the other hand, new problems are arising which have a direct impact on traditional family foundations. Armed conflicts in the contemporary world have brought about a mass exodus from areas gripped by war to more prosperous countries. Emigration often leads to a disruption of family ties, creating at the same time a new social environment in which unions of an inter-ethnic and inter-religious nature arise.
These challenges and threats are common to all the Christian Churches which seek out answers to them, proceeding from the mission that Christ has placed upon them – to bring humanity to salvation.
Unfortunately, in the Christian milieu too we often hear voices calling for the ‘modernization’ of our ecclesial consciousness, for the rejection of the supposedly obsolete doctrine of the family.
However, we ought never to forget the words of St. Paul addressed to the Christians of Rome: ‘And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God’ (Rom. 12: 2).
The Church is called to be a luminary and beacon in the darkness of this age, and Christians to be the ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light to the world’. We all ought to recall the Saviour’s warning: ‘If the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men’ (Matt. 5: 13-14).
The salt which has lost its savour are those Protestant communities which call themselves Christian, but which preach moral ideals incompatible with Christianity. If in this type of community a rite of blessing of homosexual unions is introduced, or a lesbian so called ‘bishop’ calls for the replacement of crosses from the churches with the Muslim crescent, can we speak of this community as a ‘church’? We are witnessing the betrayal of Christianity by those who are prepared to accommodate themselves to a secular, godless and churchless world.
The authorities of some European countries and America, in spite of numerous protests, including those by Catholics, continue to advocate policies aimed at the destruction of the very concept of the family.
They not only on the legislative level equate of the status of the homosexual unions to that of marriage but also criminally persecute those who out of their Christian convictions refuse to register such unions.
Immediately after the departure of Pope Francis from the USA, President Barack Obama openly declared that gay rights are more important than religious freedom. This clearly testifies to the intention of the secular authorities to continue their assault on those healthy forces in society which defend traditional family values.
Catholics here are found at the forefront of the struggle, and it is against the Catholic Church that a campaign of discrediting and lies is waged. Therefore courage in vindicating Christian beliefs and fidelity to Church tradition are particularly necessary in our times.
Today, when the world ever more resembles that foolish man ‘which built his house on the sand’ (Matt. 7: 26) it is the Church’s duty to remind the society of its firm foundation of the family as a union between a man and woman created with the purpose of giving birth to and bringing up children. Only this type of family, as ordained by the Lord when he created the world, can forestall or at least halt temporarily modern-day society’s further descent into the abyss of moral relativism.
The Orthodox Church, like the Catholic Church, has always in her teaching followed Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition in asserting the principle of the sanctity of marriage founded on the Saviour’s own words (Matt. 19: 6; Mk. 10: 9). In our time this position should be ever more strengthened and unanimous.
We should defend it jointly both within the framework of dialogue with the legislative and executive branches of power of various countries, as well as in the forums of international organizations such as the UN and the Council of Europe. We ought not to confine ourselves to well-intentioned appeals but should by all means possible ensure that the family is legally protected.
Solidarity among the Churches and all people of good will is essential for guarding the family from the challenges of the secular world and thereby protecting our future. I hope that one of the fruits of the Assembly of the Synod will be the further development of Orthodox-Catholic co-operation in this direction.
I wish you peace, God’s blessing and success in your labours.
(end, Hilarion’s talk)
What is the glory of God?
“The glory of God is man alive; but the life of man is the vision of God.” —St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in the territory of France, in his great work Against All Heresies, written c. 180 A.D.