Archbishop Eamon Martin issues family call to Synod of Bishops

Synod must broaden horizons if it wishes to speak to wider world on family, says prelate

Archbishop Eamon Martin: Probably the youngest Catholic primate (53) at the synod in Rome. Photograph: PA

Archbishop Eamon Martin: Probably the youngest Catholic primate (53) at the synod in Rome. Photograph: PA


If the Synod of Bishops in Rome wishes to speak to the wider world about the family then it must broaden its horizons, Ireland’s Catholic primate Archbishop Eamon Martin has said.

“If we want the synod to speak to people of goodwill, people of all faiths and people of no faith who may still value what they consider to be the family, then I think that opens it up and broadens our horizons,” he said.

Speaking to The Irish Times he said:“It’s very interesting how on Tuesday morning Pope Francis himself intervened and said ‘look, try not to get yourselves stuck into just the same old issues that are going to dominate’. He said, ‘broaden your horizons’. So I took that as an invitation to consider how we might speak into a much broader panorama of family.”

As a synod of bishops of the Catholic Church “we’re talking about ‘the family’ as founded upon marriage between a man and a woman. However, we must recognise that many, many people out there use the term ‘the family’ in so many other ways.”

Probably the youngest Catholic primate (53) at the synod, which is his first to attend, he was elected moderator/chairman of one of the four English language working groups. Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has been chosen as relator/secretary of another.

He was “really surprised” at his election as Moderator of the group which includes three cardinals, but has been told it is because he is Irish.

To the right of his seat at the synod “there’s a missionary from Fiji and on my left there’s an archbishop from Buenos Aires. I’m thinking to myself there are no three places further apart than Ireland, Buenos Aires, and Fiji.”

He said to the Bishop from Fiji “ mother’s cousin was a missionary in Fiji’... and he knew him.” He turned to the Archbishop from Buenos Aires and said “ ‘ father’s cousin is an Irish Christian Brother and he works in Newman College in Buenos Aires’. Even though he didn’t know him personally, he knew Newman College. He knew the Irish Christian Brothers.”


Ireland had “a very precious and revered place in the life of the church, even though we’ve been through such an awful time in the church in Ireland. We wouldn’t like to in any way diminish that. There is something special about it.

“So when it came to the election of the moderator of our group and we were talking about it, and I was elected as chairman or moderator of the group, I was really surprised. But one of the bishops said to me ‘...but you’re from Ireland’, almost as if that immediately gave us a sort of a special place in the eyes of the universal church.”

Though it is his first synod, one of the exciting things he discovered was that for so many other bishops – including Cardinal Wuerl of Washington, who is in his group and for whom it is his eighth synod – “it’s a new experience. I think we’re dealing with a new form of synodality and collegiality at work here.”

Documents prepared by the 13 working groups of bishops were presented to the media at the Vatican on Friday and some were highly critical of the Synod agenda document, Instrumentum Laboris.

It was described as “chaotic, without inherent logic”. Some also found it “to be flawed or inadequate, especially in its theology”. Members felt “Pope Francis and the people of the church deserve a better text, one in which ideas are not lost in the confusion.”