Photo: Cardinals Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, arrive for the morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)


Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) – After a media frenzy and lively internal debate were both raised by the publication of the midterm relatio of the Synod of Bishops, its secretariat issued a statement clarifying its merely provisional nature.


“The General Secretariat of the Synod … reiterates that it is a working document, which summarizes the interventions and debate of the first week,” said an Oct. 14 declaration of the Holy See press office on behalf of the secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.


The statement was made “in response to reactions and discussions following the publication of the Relatio post disceptationem, and the fact that often a value has been attributed to the document that does not correspond to its nature.”


The relatio’s publication was hailed in the secular media with such headlines as “Synod signals Catholic shift on gays” and “Vatican’s New Views On Gays, Divorced.”


The Holy See press office also noted that the relatio “is now being offered for discussion by the members of the Synod gathered in the Small Groups, in accordance with the Regulations of the Synod.”


Among the synod fathers who received the relatio less than warmly was Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, O.F.M., of Durban, South Africa’s largest port on the Indian Ocean. The cardinal questioned whether “some expectations of the synod are unrealistic,” and underscored that “the synod is not called to discuss contraception, abortion, same-sex marriages. It was convoked to speak about the family.”


“How it is written, the relatio conveys that there is an agreement on issues, on which there is not in fact an agreement” the Archbishop of Durban underscored.


Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and moderator of an Italian small group, recounted to journalists that synod fathers “were surprised by the first reactions published in the media, as if the Pope has declared, as if the synod has decided … it is not true! The relatio is a working document, and every group will relate its points of view and proposals, which will be voted on by the synod fathers.”


It is general opinion that the relatio post disceptationem may be overturned in the final document, the ‘relatio synodi’ (synod’s report).


The latter will be a comprehensive document which will contain all the inputs of the two-week synod of bishops.


It will be the first time the synod issues a final report. Usually, synods made a list of proposals and suggestions coming from the discussions of the small groups, and the Pope himself was entrusted with summarizing all the concerns and suggestions in a post-synodal apostolic exhortation.


According to the new methodology of the synod, the proposals will be summarized by the General Secretary of the Synod, the General Rapporteur, the Special Secretary, and a group of six prelates called to assist in drafting the document.


The group includes: president and deputy of the Commission for the message, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Archbishop Victor Fernandez, rector of the Catholic University of Argentina; the General Superior of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas; Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla; Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington; and Peter Kang U-il, Bishop of Cheju.


“The appointment of six people to help in drafting the final report was normal. Before, there were proposals, and there was no need of help to draft a comprehensive text. This kind of summary is a hard amount of work for the only General Rapporteur and General Secretary,” said Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office.


The Pope will decide whether or not to make public the synod’s report. Its conclusions will be the basis for the working document of the 2015 synod of bishops.