Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge leaves for Rome today to attend a gathering called by Pope Francis to discuss the needs facing modern families in the Church.
Archbishop Coleridge is one of two Australian bishops chosen to attend the Synod on the Family, called last year by Pope Francis to “confront the new and urgent pastoral needs facing the family”. Pope Francis has returned to Rome to prepare for the Synod after his visit to the United States and Cuba.
“The Pope has had an astonishing visit to the USA that I think passed all expectations,” Archbishop Coleridge said. “What was so striking was the way he bridged all of the divides and my hope is that he and we at the Synod can do exactly the same – bridge all the divides on these very complex and controversial areas.
“We’re dealing with questions that are really crucial – questions concerning marriage and the family – because these are the questions where the rubber hits the road in the lives of most people in any culture.”
The Church’s stance on divorced Catholics and same-sex relationships could be among topics discussed at the Synod – a gathering of bishops from October 4-25.
The bishops will provide suggestions to Pope Francis, who will make decisions on any changes to the Church’s approach to families. Catholics across the world were invited last year to send their suggestions to Rome.
“In looking at marriage and the family we’re looking at some very large issues including: how does the Catholic Church relate to the reality of contemporary life?” Archbishop Coleridge said. “And, in many ways, what the Church believes and teaches moves in one direction and contemporary cultures are moving in a great rate in another direction.
“So, what we’re trying to do is engage faith and culture. That’s the underlying issue that we’ll be addressing at the Synod when we look at marriage and the family.”
Pope Francis will attend each day of the Synod, which follows on from guidelines established at a 2014 extraordinary Synod on the family.
Archbishop Coleridge said this General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops would try to find a universal approach to pastoral issues faced by Catholics across the world.
“From Africa to Asia, from Europe to the USA, Latin America to Australia, there are all kinds of modulations and differences,” Archbishop Coleridge said. “In the midst of all of that we’re trying to go to the heart of marriage and the family to find a word that is genuinely universal. That is a great challenge.
“I suspect at this Synod one of the surprises will be that the voices of places like Africa and Asia will be much more potent than they have been in the past. We might be hearing the voices of Africa and Asia and Latin America in a more powerful way through this Synod.”
Archbishop Coleridge said it was difficult to predict how the Church might change out of the Synod.
“It’s hard to know because, in the end, all the Bishops can do is put suggestions in the hands of the Pope,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“The Pope will make an important speech at the end of the Synod, trying to gather up the fruits of the Synod, and then he will have to make decisions on where it goes beyond that. And I’d be confident that he does not let the good things of the Synod evaporate. He’s not that kind of man. He’s a man of action. He’s a man of realism and he’s a man of compassion.
“I’d be confident he does take it somewhere. It’s hard to know exactly where and it’s harder to know exactly when.”
Please find below a series of audio grabs from Archbishop Coleridge on the Synod:
Pope Francis and the Synod: /assets/uploads/family-synod-15-09-29.mp3
Historical perspective on the Synod: /assets/uploads/family-synod-1.mp3
What happens after the Synod: /assets/uploads/family-synod-4.mp3
Released by the Archdiocesan Communication Office