[unofficial transcript of Cardinal Tagle’s Lecture at the Theological Hour of Loyola School of Theology at Ateneo de Manila University, Sept. 3, 2014]
Good morning to everyone.
Thank you for heeding the invitation of Loyola School of Theology for us to reflect on the Instrumentum Laboris of the upcoming Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
To give you a bit of background, this is a first in the history of the Church and the Synod of Bishops. Why?
This is the first time that two synod assemblies will happen in a row.
I was elected a member of the Council of the Synod of Bishops in 2012 and in our meeting we were planning already the Synod of Bishops on 2015 for the general assemblies usually take place every three years, and next year will be special. It would mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Synod of Bishops.
But the surprise already came – Pope Francis – and he said, “I want a synodal process, not just a synodal assembly, a process.” So – two assemblies to be held successively. The first would be an extraordinary assembly and followed here by the ordinary assembly.
That caused a lot of confusion in our Council. How do you relate an extraordinary assembly to an ordinary assembly? Will the participants of the extraordinary assembly – who by the way, will be restricted to the presidents of the episcopal conferences – will they agree to be simply the introduction to the ordinary assembly that will happen in 2015?
The Holy Father gave us the direction. The extraordinary assembly to be held this October will analyze information, testimonies, and recommendations in order to respond more accurately to the new challenges to the family.
In the year 2015 the ordinary assembly will reflect on the analyses and the points emerging from the extraordinary assembly in order to formulate appropriate pastoral guidelines.
So the assembly this October will focus on the status quaestionis (state of investigation, survey results) . It’s really a bit more descriptive and next year in 2015 there we find a more directive approach in terms of pastoral guidelines to be given.
So the Holy Father says we cannot in three weeks do everything – listen in one week and the next week give directives. So we will spend time listening, analyzing and entering the complexity of the concerns of the families and let it simmer, let it percolate and then after a year let us gather again and with more representation of the bishops, lay people and the religious, after a long period of listening, maybe we can indicate pastoral directives.
So this is the first time a synodal process will be held this way. So please pray for it. The Holy Father was not fazed when we presented him questions about the identity and the foresight of both assemblies. He said, how will you issue directives and guidelines if you do not first study, listen, enter the world of the families?
Now, for some dates:
This process of listening started in Oct. 2013. A set of questions was sent to episcopal conferences – nine questions.
What do they cover?
The 1st set of questions concerns the diffusion of the teachings on family in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s magisterium:
– How is the teaching of the Church disseminated?
– How is it proclaimed and how is it received?
The 2nd set of questions is on marriage according to the natural law. For so long in time, it is through the Natural Law Theory that the Church hopes to dialogue with people of other faiths – other religions.
The 3rd is the pastoral care of the family in evangelization. Let us not forget that. It’s not only pastoral care of the family, but pastoral care of the family in the whole mission of the Church on evangelization.
The 4th is the pastoral care of families in certain difficult marital situations.
The 5th, on unions of persons of the same sex.
The 6th, the education of children in irregular marriages
The 7th, the openness of married couples to life and the transmission of life.
Eighth, the relationship between the family and the person – so the anthropological dimension of the whole concern
and the ninth is other challenges and proposals
So the episcopal conferences who had concerns not covered by the eight questions were free to indicate – and, I tell you – the list of that ninth item was longer than the responses to the first eight.
We were told to work fast so that by Jan. of 2014 the responses would have reached the secretary of the Synod of Bishops for analysis.
I don’t know what your dioceses did, but we were encouraged to bring the questionnaire to the grassroots, like to make the questions the matter for discussion in the Basic Ecclesial Communities or family gatherings so that we cull responses not only from bishops, priests and religious, but also from lay people – most especially from lay people.
And we were happy to note that while we were gathering and synthesizing the reports from the different dioceses from the Philippines we realized that a good number of lay people on their own responded to the questions and said they submitted their responses. So even if they did not belong to any Church organization, BEC or were not part of the parish consultation, they submitted their responses. So they were incorporated in the report on responses coming from the Philippines. But of course in the process, we have to summarize and summarize so the details got “blended in the juice.”
So on Jan. 2014, the Vatican offices got the responses and on June 24, 2014, the summary came out in the form of an Instrumentum Laboris, which is the instrument for the work of the synod.
As I said the primary participants are the presidents of episcopal conferences, but the Holy Father appointed as auditors and even experts a lot of lay people, even couples…. They would even give some conferences to the bishops so that the practitioners of marriage could witness to the happy celibates about the reality of marriage. So it’s a good strategy of our Holy Father – of listening …
With that as background, I would like to present to you, to highlight to you, some of the responses we got, and are incorporated in our Instrumentum Laboris.
End of Part I