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Inside the Vatican Synod on Family: Discussion Groups Formed Around Language (Day 5-6)

vatican synod and thomas schirrmacher
Vatican Synod on Family in session on October 8, 2015. |
vatican synod and thomas schirrmacher
The German discussion group in the central room of the Congregation of Faith in the Vatican on Oct. 8, 2015. |
vatican synod and thomas schirrmacher
St Peter’s and the Apostolic Palace as seen from from the garden on the roof of the headquarter of the Jesuit order on Oct. 8, 2015. |
vatican synod and thomas schirrmacher
Cardinals Müller and Marx and other members of the German discussion group of the synod on the balcony of the Congregation of Faith in front of the central room on October 8, 2015. |
vatican synod and thomas schirrmacher
Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher of the World Evangelical Alliance working on a sentence of the synod document in the pause in the central room of the Congregation of Faith in the Vatican on October 8, 2015. |
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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 8, 2015

thomas schirrmacher vatican synod
In the center of St Peter's Church after the opening of the Vatican Synod on Family on Sunday, October 4, 2015. From left: Patriarch Gregory III Laham of Damascus, head of all Catholics of Eastern rites; Thomas Schirrmacher, executive chair of the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance; Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna and opening speaker of the Synod. |

We have formed 13 groups that will be the heart of the Synod. They are constituted according to the 5 official languages of the Synod. There are several groups of 20 discussing in English, French and Italian. There is one group in Spanish/Portugese and my group converses in German. The German is the only group that is a bit smaller with 15 members. This group includes two fraternal delegates (besides me, a bishop from the Serbian Orthodox Church), one of the 16 married couples that share their story at the Synod, and a Jesuit professor from Germany as expert. We also have some members not from Germany, Switzerland or Austria, as my close friend Patriarch Gregory III Laham is from Damascus, whom I introduced to you the first day (see picture in St Peter's Church). Those members all did their doctorate at a German university and have decided to be part of the German discussion group.

We also have an impressive list of Cardinals related to the Vatican. Reinhard Cardinal Marx (the "Cardinal" always is added between the Christian name and the family name) is the head of the German Bishop Conference and one of the ten Cardinals forming the advisory body that Pope Francis invented just after his election; Christoph Cadinal Schönborn is the head of the Austrian Bishops Conference; Kurt Cardinal Koch is a Swiss bishop and president of the Pontifical Council for Propagating of Christian Unity, that is looking after us as fraternal delegates while we are in Rome. He plays an important role in the growing Catholic-Evangelical cooperation. Gerhard Cardinal Müller is the chief theologian of the Vatican, the role Pope Benedict had before he became Pope. Müller is prefect of the Congregation of Faith, which is responsible for all theological declarations of the Vatican, but also oversees all cases of discipline (e.g. all cases of priests misusing minors) and of marriage annulments.

This Congregation of Faith uses a large historic Italian "palazzo" with two entrances, one into the Vatican beside the Synod aula, and one around the corner toward Italian territory. The congregation originally was founded as "Inquisition" in the 16th century to combat Protestantism and only in 1965 was renamed. Some Cardinals made jokes that the place where they did persecute Protestants once and even hold some in prison, is now a place where I take part in discussions of a Vatican Synod. And actually we meet in the central room, in which weekly Cardinals forming the Congregation make major decisions, so somehow the court room of the Vatican.

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