OCTOBER’S GATHERING of senior Catholic church leaders from across the world revealed Pope Francis’s extraordinary capacity to live in tension.
Faced with a small but angrily vocal minority of bishops determined to check his aim of moving the church in a more missionary, and merciful, direction, and an apparently inconclusive finale — the 190 voting members failed to agree on two vital issues — he did not flinch. In an unprecedented act of transparency, he ordered the concluding document to be published together with the vote tallies and gave one of his finest addresses to date.
In it he urged the synod fathers (and, by extension, the whole Catholic Church) to spend the next year discussing and discerning, in advance of a second gathering in October 2015, the two issues on which there was no clear green light to move forward. One was how to bind the wounds of the divorced while promoting marriage indissolubility; the other was how to embrace gay people while celebrating marriage as a conjugal institution.
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