Bishop Borys Andrij Gudziak of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Saint Vladimir-Le-Grande de Paris, France, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, and Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, pose for media with an image of the Holy Family before a session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)


The second week of the Synod (meeting of world bishops focusing on the family),continued with speeches both in the Aula and circuli minores according to language groups. In addition, the observers were invited to speak to the Synod Fathers and then the next day, the auditors.

The observers, beginning with the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, shared with the Fathers some of the theological insights on the sacrament of marriage from within their own traditions. The bishops of the East brought to the Synod the wisdom of the millennial Churches that have so enriched our Roman Catholic Church.

The observers from the Churches and ecclesial communities of the West also offered some very interesting points, mostly of a pastoral nature. Their experience reflected much of what we in our country know of the high divorce rates, the variety of relationships and the struggle to speak the Word of God in a culture that is pluralist and tuned into what the French call “laicite”.

Reading the summaries of the language groups I believe it fair to say that a consensus has not yet emerged on several important issues but there is a broad sense of affective collegiality. This is a good sign. A synod is not an ecumenical council. It is an advisory body of bishops whose task is to assist the Holy Father with the wisdom of their theological and canonical training wedded to their pastoral wisdom, born of the experience of service as a bishop. At this point it is not clear what role the writing committee will have and what conclusions, if any, the Synod as a whole will present to the Holy Father at the end of this week. The Synod concludes with Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica this coming Sunday, October 25, where I am sure the Holy Father will offer the Synod Fathers and us all a vision for the future.

Outside the Synod, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia offered a very insightful reflection piece on the Synod which was published last Saturday in the Wall Street Journal. There was also a piece in the Sunday NY Times by Russ Douthat regarding the role of the Holy Father and the tremendous burden that is his as Pastor of the Universal Church. Finally, the noted “Vaticanista,” Sandro Magister, devoted a column to the person of our local archbishop, Cardinal Dolan. Mr. Magister underlined how the many gifts the Cardinal has as thoughtful pastor, good shepherd and voice of dialogue and unity have served the Holy Father and our brother bishops in both the process and the content of the Synod.

In that spirit I invite all of you to continue to pray with me for the Pope and the Synodal Fathers as they complete their pastoral service of leadership for the Church.