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Bishops' Synod meeting won't just focus on divorce and remarriage

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The Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, said in an interview yesterday with Catholic News Agency that the notion that has circulated in the secular news media, and even in some of the Catholic press, that the primary focus of the meeting of the Synod of Bishops in October will be the matter of whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics may receive Holy Communion could be an erroneous supposition. “I would like to remind you that the next assembly of the synod of bishops is titled ‘the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.’ So the synod will deal with the family in its various aspects – not with a single issue,” Baldisseri wrote in reply to e-mailed questions. “In my view, a good service for people would be that of giving each issue regarding the family the same ‘space’ for discussion.”

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The upcoming plenary session of the Synod of Bishops, which is scheduled for October 5th-19th in the Vatican, has been marked by intense interest from both the Catholic and secular news media, interest which has been filled with wide-ranging speculation that the bishops plan to "liberalize" the Church's approach to Catholics who have been divorced and civilly remarried. “Regarding the possibility for the synod of bishops of changing the doctrine of the Church, I underscore that the First Vatican Council’s document ‘Dei Filius’ affirmed that ‘understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding,’” the Cardinal said. “And I also remind you that John XXIII said in the inaugural speech of the Second Vatican Council that ‘authentic doctrine … should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another.’”

Holy Communion for people who have been divorced and remarried is far from the only issue threatening the family which involves the Church, and it may not even be the most pressing. Polygamy has been a concern of long-standing for the Church in Africa, and the government of Kenya has recently passed a law which legalizes the practice.