[#AwaNgDiyosPH] Protecting families: Is Pope Francis calling for new approaches?




MANILA (The Filipino Connection and Philstar.com)—The family, global society’s basic unit, had never gotten prominent until a pope made that six-letter word trend and headline.

A predominantly-Christian country heard Pope Francis loud and clear: Protect the family. Said in a political stage, an ecclesiastical altar and to a pompous arena, that message of never forgetting families blurted out of the heart —repetitively— of this charismatic pope.

Pope Francis waves to a jolly crowd heading to the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City for a meeting with Filipino families (Photo by MIA ROSIENNA MALLARI / The Filipino Connection)

Pope Francis waves to a jolly crowd. families included, heading to the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City for a meeting with Filipino families (Photo by MIA ROSIENNA MALLARI / The Filipino Connection)

Having a family is a dream, the Supreme Pontiff said before a jampacked basketball arena January 16. Do not “lose this capacity to dream,” Francis said extemporaneously.

The global family is now a hot topic under the running regime of Pope Francis, especially after an October 2014 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops had put the Catholic world’s top clergymen into spots where, on the one hand, there’s a need to respond to modern family issues; on the other hand, long-standing dogmatic teachings are being assessed —possibly even re-assessed.

Nothing’s final yet on how the Catholic Church shall respond —theologically and practically— to what Francis refers to as “ideological colonization” or the many pressures of family life.

But how come tackling issues confronting a seemingly harmless segment of society became ticklish?

That Third Extraordinary Synod openly and frankly tackled many realities confronting the family. Days prior to this Philippine apostolic visit, many voices had been heard from all walks of life —including the members of society which Francis’ pontificate had identified to be in need of help: divorced and re-married couples; single parents,; the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community; overseas migrant families; among others.

Much debate had happened about the contrasting views of Church leaders on various issues during that Synod. But theologians like Salesian Francis Gustilo, S.D.B., Dominican Gerard Francisco Timoner III, O.P. and Redemptorist Victorino Cueto, C.Ss.R. all agreed nothing’s final yet.

The Pope had called for another extraordinary synod this October on the family after the United States hosts a World Meeting of Families this September. So for the October 2015 Extraordinaryy Synod, the Vatican released a lineamenta or a questionnaire.

The lineamenta had been distributed to all dioceses worldwide. Bishops, as episcopal commissions, will discuss the answers first and then give their comments to the Vatican, explains Archbishop of Nueva Caceres Roland Tria Tirona, D.D. The questionnaire will also solicit comments from the commissions in individual parishes.

So nothing’s final yet with how the Church will approach families, Archbishop of Lipa Ramon Arguelles, D.D. tells The Filipino Connection / Philstar.com.


‘New’ pastoral approaches?

Gustilo liked the theme of the October 2014 Synod: “pastoral challenges facing the family on the new evangelization.” Simply put, he explains, while the Catholic Church has dogmatic truths on things like, say, marriage, “how do you present the truth” to the divorced, the re-married and those living together prior to getting married?

That Synod, said Timoner (a recent appointee to the Vatican’s International Theological Commission or ITC), “had a gone a step further”: “Should we look at our theological principles boldly enough so that we see how the teachings of the church adapt to new circumstances?”

A former ITC member, Gustilo, suspects what the Synod is trying to reflect is what approaches may need to be employed to assist those families facing such situations.

“There are many possibilities then from this pontificate,” says Cueto, rector of the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (in Baclaran, Pasay City). For example, Cueto’s parish runs a counseling ministry for the same sex and has sustained a decade-long center for overseas workers inside a compound that’s beside a community of vendors. Prostituted women and men pray at that shrine early morning.

Could there be a ministry for gays, Gustilo asks. “Possibly.”

Cueto thinks Francis is singing a different tune on how the Church approaches the wounded families. He admits at least some of the Church’s members might be discriminating at each other given these realities, pushing them away from the faith.

What Francis tries to do is to have a  “hospitable church” —a Church, Cueto thinks, that says “Come, whoever you are. Let us journey together; hopefully, in the whole journey, let us talk while we’re both journeying.”

But let these family members, gays or broken families, for example, go to churches that are places of welcome and hospitality, “to be just themselves,” Cueto said. “I hope the Church becomes more embracing. It doesn’t mean we will not challenge people. Your starting point is a totally different perspective. Then we journey together.”

It is how the Church approaches thesee differing realities, and apply mercy, Gustilo said. “There is a light of goodness that God sees in every person. There’s always a window of heart for a person. The pope is asking for conversion… for (these people) to look for the truth that will make them life-giving.”

So it is the search for new approaches that Gustilo thinks will happen in the immediate future for the Catholic Church. “Instead of immediately sinners condemning fellow sinners, it is making an approach of being human,” Gustilo said.

As there’s still no final answers on how the Catholic Church deals with modern-day family issues, Pope Francis called for having strong families that can withstand threats to usual familial unity.

But it is not enough that the individual family is taken cared of: Other wounded families, Francis said, are in need of hospitality.

“Families will always have their trials, but may you never add to them,” Francis said. “Instead, be living examples of love, forgiveness and care.”

What that precisely means is for the next Synod this October to tackle.—The Filipino Connection and Philstar.com.



The Filipino Connection covers the visit of Pope Francis in partnership with Philstar.com.



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