Pope Francis led a closing Mass to a divisive three-week Vatican summit on Sunday with a fresh call for the Catholic Church to be less judgemental and more welcoming towards those who stray from its teachings.
The October 4-25 Synod of Bishops reviewed church positions on the family, and, in a final report issued Saturday, made a cautious opening towards divorcees and unmarried couples, but shied away from bold statements about homosexuals.
“It’s been tiring, but [the summit] has been a true gift of God, which will definitely bear a lot of fruit,” Francis said in his Sunday Angelus message, after a service with synod delegates in St Peter’s Basilica.
In an earlier homily, he did not dwell on specific non-orthodox lifestyles, but said the duty of church pastors is to “bring people into contact with the compassionate mercy” of God, “without lecturing.”
He warned priests against walking through “the deserts of humanity without seeing what is really there,” and added: “A faith that does not know how to root itself in the life of people remains arid and, rather than oases, creates other deserts.”
The pope also said faith was not a mechanical exercise, bound by rules and schedules, “where everything is listed: we know where to go and how long it will take; everyone must respect our rhythm and every problem is a bother.”
The synod, which played out in two separate sessions, with a first round of talks held in October 2014, exposed deep rifts between reformers and conservatives, and was overshadowed by feuds and intrigues, including a false report that Francis had a brain tumour.
The summit’s biggest point of controversy was whether remarried divorcees could be allowed to take Communion. In what was seen as a slight softening of positions, the assembly concluded that such “irregular” situations should be dealt on a case-by-case basis.
Synods do not have the power to take decisions, but only to offer advice to the pope. Francis, who is known as a reformer, is expected to elaborate his views on family matters in an official document to be released sometime in the future.