VATICAN CITY (RNS) — The Vatican’s high-level meeting on the family continued Oct. 6, with bishops emphasizing the need for open discussion on divorced and remarried Catholics.
The 62 bishops who have so far spoken at the gathering, called a synod, appeared to push back strongly against remarks on Oct. 5 by Hungary’s Cardinal Peter Erdo, who defended the church’s exclusion of divorced and remarried couples from receiving communion unless they’ve been granted an annulment and remarried in the church.
Speaking to journalists on Oct. 6, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said there would be an open discussion on the topic. “The synod has a wide vision ... of the universal church,” Celli said.
Rev. Thomas Rosica, English-language assistant to the Vatican press office, said bishops feel the need to change the language used by clergy with regard to gay people, cohabitating couples or, in the case of some African nations, polygamous marriages.
“There must be an end to exclusionary language and a strong emphasis on embracing reality as it is; we should not be afraid,” he said.
Rosica’s comments echo those made by Pope Francis at Tuesday’s mass, in which he stressed the need for mercy and flexibility.
“Where the Lord is, there is mercy,” Vatican Radio quoted the pontiff as saying. “Where his ministers are, there is rigidity. The rigidity that defies mission, which challenges mercy.”
A day earlier, Francis told bishops not to safeguard a “museum of memories” in the church, while advising them to do away with their prejudices and listen to one another.
Francis is keeping a close eye on this year’s synod, although he is not expected to attend any of the bishop’s smaller group meetings, which started on Tuesday.
While much outside attention has been placed on the church’s approach to divorced and remarried couples, as well as gay Catholics, the synod discussions so far demonstrate a broad agenda.
The topics mentioned by bishops include violence and sexual abuse, war and refugees, and the effects of globalization. The three-week synod concludes Oct. 25, when bishops are expected to publish the outcome of their discussions.