Pope opens synod, calls for welcoming church but no gay marriage

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Pope Francis leads the opening mass for the synod of bishops on the family in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican October 4, 2015. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope Francis leads the opening mass for the synod of bishops on the family in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican October 4, 2015. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

VATICAN CITY  (Reuters) Pope Francis on Sunday (Oct. 4) reaffirmed Catholic opposition to gay marriage as he opened a three-week gathering of bishops from around the world but said the church had to show love and understanding towards all.

Francis presided at a solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to open the meeting, known as a synod, on the theme of the family in the modern world.

But the run-up to the synod, attended by some 300 bishops and other delegates, has been dominated by gay issues.

On the eve of the gathering, the Vatican dismissed a Polish priest from his job after he came out as gay and called for changes in Catholic teachings against homosexual activity.

Conservative Catholics held a conference in Rome just before the synod started on how homosexuals can live by church’s rules that they should be chaste while Catholic gay activists held another demanding full acceptance of active gays in the church.

Francis dedicated one third of his homily to the topic of love between man and woman and its role in procreation.

“This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self,” he said.

READ: Vatican boots openly gay priest from Holy See post

He also spoke of the “true meaning of the couple and of human sexuality in God’s plan,” a clear reference to heterosexual marriage.

Merciful church

But Francis also stressed that the church must be more welcoming, charitable, compassionate and merciful to all people, particularly those whose lives have been wounded and who those find it difficult to adhere to all of the church’s regulations.

The leader of the 1.2 billion member church said the person “who falls or errs must be understood and loved.”

“The church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them, for a church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock,” he said.

In its explanation of the firing of the Polish monsignor on Saturday, the Vatican said his very public coming out was intended to put undue media pressure on the synod on gay issues, which are expected to be only a small part of the bishops’ discussions.

The story made the front page of nearly all Italian newspapers, with one headline calling it “An earthquake in the Vatican.”

At a preliminary synod last year, bishops watered down a initial statement that was seen as a major change of tone toward homosexuals. That statement spoke of “gifts and qualities” of homosexuals but was changed after a backlash by conservatives.

READ: Intense jockeying on gay issues precedes next week’s Catholic synod meeting

One key topic at the synod will be how to reach out to Catholics who have divorced and remarried in civil ceremonies.

They are considered by the church to be still married to their first spouse and living in a state of sin. Some bishops want a change to the rules that bars them from receiving sacraments such as communion.

Last month, Francis made it simpler and swifter for Catholics to secure a marriage annulment, the most radical such reform for 250 years, and told bishops to be more welcoming to divorced couples.

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  • I’m sure the Catholic Church will not be permitting Gay wedding anytime in the foreseeable future. But perhaps one of the questions that will be addressed at the Synod is, “How shall the Church respond to Gay Catholic couples who have entered into CIVIL marriages?”

  • JL

    Of course the Pope did not legitimize so called “gay marriage”, otherwise he would have shown himself to be an apostate.

    Apostasy is defined by the Catholic church in its catechism and calls it “damnable.” Gay marriage would be in this category.

    817 In fact, “in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church- Catechism, Part1, Sec 2, Ch 3, Article 9

  • Larry

    Pa, reflect on how Christians actually act in public. It generally has nothing to do with the content of their scripture. Dropping a Bible quote does not negate the hypocritical behavior and selective morality employed by those seeking a religious excuse to act badly.

  • Jimmy Mac

    There is an unwarranted rather arrogant assumption that lesbians and gays want a church wedding in this denomination.

    A little clue: no we do not!

    Just stop interfering in civil secular marriages that impart civil secular rights, benefits and responsibilities.

    Now, that wasn’t hard, was it?

  • Michael Potvin-Frost

    It truly makes no sense to me that the supposed sin of active homosexuality is treated differently from most other sins. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The Church is a Church of sinners. The self-righteous are specifically called out by Jesus. How dare any Christian act like he or she is so perfect that they should be able to receive Communion and others should not. That includes those who have divorced and remarried in a civil ceremony. There is something especially un-Christian about this stance as if some sins are especially worthy of condemnation and others are not.

  • dancingcrane

    To Jimmy – You may not want a Catholic wedding, but we are talking about the ones who do. If you want secular civil rights, there are already laws allowing you to do everything you want to do. Get “power of attorney”and make whatever arrangements you want. You don’t need marriage for that.

    To Michael – no sin is different. It’s just that sins that the culture insists we must accept as not sins but as good things, esp. sexual sins, get all the sympathetic media attention. It’s more “interesting” to the media to talk about sex. So it seems to you that the Church treats them differently, when we really don’t.

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  • ben in oakland

    ” Get “power of attorney”and make whatever arrangements you want. You don’t need marriage for that.”

    then neither do heterosexuals. But they do get it anyway, right?

    So right there, your idea that the differential treatment of gay people is somehow the “liberal media’s” fault falls apart. Why should I and my partner, together for many years, have to spend thousands of dollars– and I have– when two drunk heteros who met five minutes ago and got married by Elvis have a far more superior and secure arrangement for under $100?