Date
29 March 2017
Pope Francis reminds his bishops Sunday that the church needs to listen to the members of its flock and be compassionate toward them. Photo: AFP
Pope Francis reminds his bishops Sunday that the church needs to listen to the members of its flock and be compassionate toward them. Photo: AFP

Pope calls for more open-hearted, compassionate church

Pope Francis closed a contentious bishops’ meeting on family issues Sunday, calling for a more open-hearted, compassionate church rooted in people’s lives — not a programmatic, arid one that fears changes and challenges.

At the end of the three-week synod, the 270 bishops agreed to a qualified opening up toward divorcees who have remarried outside the church and now cannot receive communion.

But the gathering’s final document sidestepped the issue of whether the church should use more welcoming language toward homosexuals, Reuters reported.

The overall results appear to be a qualified victory for the pope, who is the final arbiter and will now write his own major document on family issues.

On Saturday, Francis excoriated church leaders who he said sometimes bury their heads in the sand and hide behind rigid doctrine while families suffer.

“A faith that does not know how to root itself in the life of people remains arid and, rather than oases, creates other deserts,” he said Sunday.

The pope has stressed since his election in 2013 that the 1.2 billion-member church should be open to change, side with the poor and rid itself of the pomp and stuffiness that has alienated so many Catholics.

The pope continued his theme of a more compassionate, more listening church in his homily at a mass Sunday with the bishops in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Francis said church leaders need to beware “a scheduled faith” where everything is programmed, and a condescending point of view where “whoever bothers us or is not of our stature is excluded”.

The pope’s tough speech on Saturday night was the latest in a series of admonitions to his bishops to be more flexible and merciful without changing basic doctrine.

In it, he appeared to criticise the ultraconservatives who nearly derailed some of the synod’s openings.

He said the synod had “laid bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families”.

The synod avoided the very real possibility of ending in a total deadlock on some issues, but the fact that conservatives came very close to defeating the document’s conclusions on divorcees underscores the deep divisions that remain.

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