As had been agreed in principle by the Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), and following the review and approval of the Conference’s Executive Committee, a synthesis has been prepared and sent to the Holy See of the responses of the Bishops and dioceses of Canada to the questions in the Preparatory Document for the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, “The pastoral challenges for the family in the context of evangelization”.
The extent of the consultations by the dioceses and their responses are clear evidence of the pastoral importance of this theme for this year’s Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The consultations indicate not only the importance of marriage and family life for both the Church and our society, but also the Church’s deep appreciation for the generous witness and commitment of married couples and families, especially in today’s world of rapid social change and significant economic challenges. At the same time, the process has shown many Catholics are not deeply aware of the Church’s rich and positive teaching on marriage and family. This can result in a troubling gap between the Church’s doctrine and the thinking of a number of Catholics. There are also hopes the Church could be more effective in presenting its teaching, and might also review aspects of its discipline in certain areas.
This year’s Extraordinary Synod will involve a special meeting of the Presidents of the world’s Episcopal Conferences and of the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Churches. The Holy Father has already indicated this will be followed next year by a meeting of the Synod’s Ordinary Assembly, which in effect will involve a greater number of Bishops from throughout the world in further reflection on these significant questions.
The Preparatory Document notes that the purpose of its questions is to allow “the particular Churches to participate actively in the preparation of the Extraordinary Synod.” Noting that “the time available is short,” the accompanying letter from the General Secretary of the Synod, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, had asked that Conferences of Bishops follow “the most brief and practical institutional process” in providing him a synthesis of responses no later than the end of this past January. In accordance with the preparations and practice for every meeting of the Synod of Bishops, the results of the CCCB synthesis of diocesan responses are sent directly to the Holy See and not made public. Instead, the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops will later this year publish the instrumentum laboris or “discussion document” for the Third Extraordinary Assembly, which will present a summary of major concerns and suggestions from around the world. Also to assist in this, the CCCB will be forwarding to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops the complete responses that this Conference has received not only from Canadian dioceses and Bishops, but also from various other Canadian groups and individuals.
(Rev.) Msgr. Patrick Powers, P.H.
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
5 February 2014