A non-Western perspective on Synod

This year’s discussion at the Synod on Family tended to be reduced in Western media to two issues: communion for divorced-and-civilly remarried, and Church teaching and pastoral care regarding homosexuality.

Actual topics brought up during meetings were much broader.

As well as the ‘Western’ topics, Synod fathers also developed themes such as domestic violence, violence against women, incest and abuse within families, marriage preparation and pornography.

The family is much more than divorce, remarriage and homosexuality.

“We are all, first and foremost, family men”, Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Canada told the Synod.

“We have parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins.

“Therefore, the families of which we speak are not alien to us, they form part of our lives. This must be transparent in our language, in our texts, in our care and compassion for the families of the world”.

Synod very challenging for PNG and Solomons churches

With all the differences in opinions and expressions from around the world, a sense of collegiality among the bishops in the synod developed 94 paragraphs for Pope Francis’ consideration.

While there was overall support for the Church’s teaching and current pastoral practice to remain in place, the document addressed the Western issues of divorced and remarried couples, saying that while “avoiding every occasion of scandal”, baptized persons must be “more integrated into the Christian community” .

However, on a more local perspective, since the dioceses of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands are moving from ‘Missionary Churches’ to the ‘Local Churches’ the formation activities for youth and families are becoming a more essential part of a different type of evangelization, a new way of evangelizing.

Therefore, if the Churches of PNG and the Solomons are really serious about the better future of the Church, this final Draft Document is an important and significant tool.

In other words, in every parish we need to

  • create early child care centers for 3 to 6 old children,
  • Sunday School with proper text books from Grade One to Grade Twelve,
  • systematically organized youth groups,
  • proper marriage preparation courses before people marry,
  • regular gatherings and on going formation activities for couple’s.

That is, every parish community in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands needs to become a conducive place for formation and learning; a center of faith, prayer and spirituality.

If these things happen they will be the greatest gift of the Synod of Bishops on Family to PNG and the Solmons.

However, in a local context all these things will be very challenging

While the final Draft Document, explains “Pastoral Care” as “appropriate formation activities” and “appropriate pastoral action”,  there are almost no ‘regular pastoral activities’ – and no ‘regular formation activities’ for the children, youth, couple’s, men, women and elders at all in the parishes.

There are many pastoral challenges facing family life in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands and we remain grateful Bishop Anton Bal, Bishop of Kundiawa diocese, and the Deputy Bishop for Family Life Apostolate from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands for representing our churches and participating in the Synod, helping to shape its outcome.

  • Fr Shanthi Chacko Puthussery PIME is Secretary of Commission for Youth and Laity in Bomana, Port Moresby

News category: Analysis and Comment.

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