Inside the Vatican Synod on Family: Homosexuality, Remarriage and Church Child Abuse (Day 17)

Pope Francis talking to delegates at the Vatican Synod on the Family on Friday, October 9, 2015. Fraternal delegate Thomas Schirrmacher, who is reporting daily from the Vatican exclusively for CP, notes how accessible Pope Francis is before and after plenary sessions compared to the previous pope. | (Courtesy of Thomas Schirrmacher)

Editor's note: The Christian Post has arranged with noted evangelical Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, an expert on and friend of The Catholic Church, to provide exclusive and rare coverage of the World Synod of the Catholic Church scheduled for October 3-24.

This Vatican Synod is generating great interest among Catholics and Evangelicals alike as Pope Francis continues to make overtures for increased cooperation with Evangelicals to protect religious freedom in a world of increased persecution of Christians.

Schirrmacher is president of the International Council of the International Society for Human Rights und Ambassador for Human Rights and executive chair of the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance, the largest evangelical association in the world.

Only one evangelical was invited to this year's three-week Synod: Dr. Schirrmacher. Below is his exclusive CP blog post from this historic meeting:

October 20, 2015

We just received the text of the speech Pope Francis gave Wednesday to 700 ill visitors, among them many children, within the Audience Hall and then later to the masses waiting at St. Peters square. He said that it is a scandal if baby and children are not loved and all to often the Church was involved in this scandal.

The Pope apologizes for something different nearly every month. He apologized to parents, for instance, whose unbaptized children could not be buried properly, because the church did not except them to be believers. (They were buried outside the church cemeteries?)

Having experienced personally several of his apologies, I only can tell you — he means it.

He is deeply convinced that not only the "sons of the church" sinned (this is Pope John Paul II's constant wording), but the church itself sinned and needs to ask its members for forgiveness.

This is a major step for a Church, that never asked for forgiveness as the Church. Only Pope Benedict started this carefully (e.g. when writing about the misuse of minors by priests and bishops in Ireland). With Pope Francis, it is in the open now.

There are Catholics out there that do not like this. They think that the Pope does not win anyway, but loses people no longer confident in a holy and infallible church.

I think that Pope Francis does not consider the results but apologizes from the deepest of his heart. He has preached this all his life and now just goes on to the same as the pope.

Some people say that Pope Francis never shifts theology or church law. This is a major swing in how you see the Catholic Church. By moving the marriage annulment court from the Vatican, where it was for centuries, so to speak "forever," down to the local bishops (announced September 8; effective December 8, 2015) is a major change in church law and in theology also.

What's up at the synod beyond this?

The small language groups finished their work on the third and last part. Today the 13 papers were read in the plenary, that summaries their discussion, wishes and text proposals. The delegates have one and a half free days now, in which a small team of editors review all the suggestions made and has to propose a text, that then finally will be discussed in plenary again and, probably after some changes, will be voted on.

One can say that the synod, in the main, is in agreement in many topics around strengthening marriage and families. The church is a real advocate of those institutions seen as created by God even before State and Church existed.

The disagreements are, not by surprise, those two topics that no one wanted to become the center of the synod, but which alone count for 90% of all strong statements in one or the other direction, and were the language groups still disagree: the question of remarried people taking the mass (can there be exceptions for those who repent and live a live of faith and church?) and homosexuality (not so much, whether it can be a positive thing, but in how far to stress non-discrimination, non-criminalization, etc.).

Most groups had a large majority for those topics in one or the other direction, some were not able to find a consent, but could only describe both sides. For my perspective, some of the paragraphs written by the groups for the final document could really bring a solution, but we will have to wait to see whether any of those makes into the final draft.

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