Dragged out of the Middle Ages Screaming

Catholic church must listen to beat of this age, Pope Francis tells bishops

Pontiff opens fortnight-long extraordinary session of the synod of bishops with call to avoid intellectual one-upmanship

Pope Francis at the opening mass of the synod of bishops. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pope Francis urged Catholic bishops gathered in Rome to listen hard to the “beat of this age” as he opened a landmark assembly that liberals hope will spark reform of some of the church’s entrenched stances on marriage, sex and divorce.

Almost 200 bishops from five continents have descended on the Vatican for a fortnight-long extraordinary session of the synod of bishops – the first in nearly 30 years – which Francis has devoted to tackling the church’s attitude towards the modern family.

In a homily before the bishops in St Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, Francis called on the prelates to avoid intellectual one-upmanship at the synod and instead work creatively to establish how the church can take into consideration the realities of Catholics’ lives.

“Synod gatherings are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent,” he said, in remarks interpreted by some as a criticism of cardinals who have been publicly sparring with each other in recent weeks over whether remarried divorcees should be allowed Holy Communion.

At a prayer vigil on Saturday evening, Francis said that only by paying close attention and understanding real people’s lives would the church earn credibility on issues which he did not name but which are thought to include cohabitation, second marriages and gay relationships.

“We must lend our ears to the beat of this era and detect the scent of people today, so as to be permeated by their joys and hopes, by their sadness and distress, at which time we will know how to propose the good news of the family with credibility,” he said in his address, heard by tens of thousands of people in St Peter’s Square.

The scope of the synod’s likely consequences is limited: the church is not, for instance, going to endorse gay marriage or abortion. But since his election last March, the reform-minded Argentinian pope has repeatedly made clear his irritation with priests and prelates who focus on “small-minded rules” at the expense of human beings grappling with real-life dilemmas. He has even warned that unless the church finds a new balance between adherence to doctrine and pastoral care, “the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards”.

Source: TheGuardian Read more

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