Pope opens synod, warns Church against judgment of others

Pontiff says Church has to show love and understanding towards all

Monsignor Krzystof Charamsa was dismissed by the Vatican from his post in a Holy See office after he told a newspaper he was gay. Video: Reuters


Pope Francis has once again warned the Church against judgment of other people, urging it to “seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy”.

He was speaking as the Synod of Bishops got underway in Rome .

At a Mass attended by Synod participants in St Peter’s Basilica on Sunday morning, he said the Church should not point a finger in judgment of others but rather should be conscious of “her duty to seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy” and to be a ‘field hospital’ with the doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support.

It should “reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation,” he said.

It should be “a Church which teaches and defends fundamental values, while not forgetting that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”.

The pope’s comments came a day after the Vatican dismissed a Polish monsignor from his Holy See job after he came out as gay and called for changes in Catholic teachings against homosexual activity.

In its explanation of the firing of the monsignor on Saturday, the Vatican said his very public coming out was intended to put undue media pressure on the synod on gay issues, which are expected to be only a small part of the bishops’ discussions.

The story made the front page of nearly all Italian newspapers, with one headline calling it “an Earthquake in the Vatican”.

In his address to the Synod, the pope recalled that Jesus also said: “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” The Church should be “a good Samaritan to wounded humanity,” he added.

He quoted the words of St John Paul II that “error and evil must always be condemned and opposed; but the man who falls or who errs must be understood and loved… we must love our time and help the man of our time.”

“The Church must search out those persons and accompany them, for a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock.”

He concluded: “In this spirit we ask the Lord to accompany us during the Synod and to guide his Church.”

The Synod begins its formal sessions on Monday morning and continues until October 25th. Pope Francis is expected to attend each Synod session. Among the first to speak on Monday morning will be one of the 18 married couples invited to attend.

Among the 270 cardinals, archbishops and bishops taking part, 54 are from Africa, 64 from America, 36 from Asia, 107 from Europe and nine from Oceania.

Included are 74 cardinals (including one cardinal Patriarch and two major archbishops), six Patriarchs, one major archbishop, 72 archbishops (including three titular), 102 bishops (including six auxiliaries, three apostolic vicars and one emeritus), two parish priests and 13 religious.

Invitees from different cultures and nations will take also part. Representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities will attend as observers.

Irish Catholics will be represented by the President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin and the Vice President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.

At its conclusion, the Synod’s final report will be presented to Pope Francis with whom all decisions arising rests. He may then issue an Apostolic Exhortation based on the report, which he can also ignore, but this is thought unlikely.