The Synod on the Family is now over. The final document includes 94 points with dozens of proposals. It has a positive tone and it gives a hopeful message to families facing hardships.
The document describes some of the challenges families face. It does so by saying that hardships can also be seen as an opportunity.
Bishops ask Christians to cultivate a hopeful understanding on painful realities like loneliness and marital failure.
The Synod concluded that helping people is not the same as telling them everything is ok. Rather, it means having the courage to listen to their pain, embrace them, and seek ways to heal their wounds.
One of the ideas that came up in the Synod, time and time again, is that marriage preparation must be improved. There is agreement that offering only six classes before the wedding is not enough. Also, couples who have been married for years, should be more involved in helping younger couples, in some of the challenges they face.
The document also calls for families to foster an ongoing relationship with other Catholic families, not just every now and then, but rather as a firm pillar.
OPEN TO LIFE AND SEX EDUCATION
Bishops suggested that parents must be involved in the sexual education of their children and not leave it up to others to educate them on the matter.
This kind of education is key, they say, for their stability and for the success of their future marriage.
The document adds that teaching compromise and love is essential. Especially when it comes to understanding that children are the fruit of love.
The document also addresses couples who aren't married but live together in stable relationships.
It says that many of them live in fidelity and openness to life, which are elements of marriage. Thus, they call for special attention so they can walk towards the path of marriage.
Here's what the Pope said in his closing speech at the Synod:
"The Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion, and to lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord.”
For divorced people who have remarried and want to return to the sacraments, the Synod proposes that a priest help them develop awareness through reflection, so they can understand their personal situation before God.
Specifically, it says that "conversation with a priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment about what hinders the possibility of a fuller life in the Church and the steps that can favor it and make participation grow.”
The Synod document recalls what Pope John Paul II said: A person being unjustly abandoned is not the same as someone who has destroyed a marriage.
As for gay people, the Synod states that Christ "loved and died for every person, without exception.” Therefore, "every person, regardless of sexual orientation, should be respected in their dignity, and welcomed with respect, avoiding 'any brand of unfair discrimination.'”
It also says that one "cannot draw analogies between homosexual unions and God's plan for marriage and family.”
The Synod did not ignore the struggles of those fleeing from war and poverty. It discussed the challenges faced by families who had to leave their country to start a new life.
The bishops ask that dioceses and parishes work to ensure the dignity of migrants and refugees is respected.
It states they must help them while taking into account their culture, beliefs, and traditions.
In short, the 94 points of the document are optimistic. It also calls for women to be included in the decision-making processes of the Church; that parents not relinquish protection of their family; that grandparents role and their care is taken into consideration, and that families can find a proper work- life balance.