His Holiness Pope Francis has finally finished his Apostolic Post-Synod Exhortation, after a year and a half of work. The document was requested by Synod fathers, is expected to be published on April 8th, and is greatly anticipated by many. It’s an educational address regarding the family’s role in the Catholic faith.
There is a lot of discussion about what the tone of the writings will be, as he has been recognized for some of his unconventional practices and been dubbed “the modern-day pontiff”, so some of what we may read in this forthcoming document may make some waves in the faith, although he has also been very outspoken on the role of the family in non-secular education, amongst other beliefs, so we may not read anything new, it may be an official word on things he has said and written before. There is a great expectancy surrounding this document, and a fair share of speculation as well.
According to quotes from Catholic Online: “This the most important test for this pope to show us how he deals with dissent in the Church, how he deals with divided issues,” said Massimo Faggioli, a Church historian who directs the Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic school in St. Paul. According to the National Catholic Reporter, “That document notably recommended a significant softening of the church’s practice toward those who have divorced and remarried.”
At the end of the Synod on the Family in the fall of 2015, the attending bishops wrote a summary document with the intention of advising him, and this document will be based on the synod’s final report, as in past synods. “We humbly ask the Holy Father to evaluate the opportunity of offering a document on the family, so that in it, the domestic church may ever more shine Christ, the light of the world,” the Oct. 24 report stated.
This document may just be a restating of the ideas and thoughts of the Bishops in his own words, or it may turn out to be a completely new document of his own writing. “The document will identify the current stresses on family life from poverty, migration, and war, as well as the hostile legal and cultural framework of contemporary Western society, which Francis calls ‘ideological colonization,'” stated Francis’ biographer Austen Ivereigh to ‘Our Sunday Visitor.’ “The exhortation will be an uplifting tribute to the enduring power and beauty of family life, offering support and consolation to those struggling against fierce contemporary headwinds to hold families together.”
In Pope Francis’ three years since having been elected to the papacy, he has been very outspoken on the role of Catholic education in the world and in the Church, and has particularly emphasised parent’s proper role as the primary educators of their children. He has been outspoken in the fact that non-secular schooling alone is not enough for children, that parents need to educate the children in the ways of the Catholic faith at home, as well. “It is your right to request an appropriate education for your children, an integral education open to the most authentic human and Christian values. As parents, you are the depositories of the duty and the primary and inalienable right to educate your children, thus helping in a positive and constant way the task of the school.” Said Pope Francis.
“Taken as a whole, his statements centered on rebuilding a more ‘human’ education — relax the ‘rigidity’ of schools, reach out to the margins of society, decrease the emphasis on intellectual ‘selectivity’ that tends to exclude rather than invite participation, and open young hearts and minds to God,” wrote Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly. He added that the comments by Pope Francis to the Vatican Congress “should not be construed as pulling the reins on evangelization in schools. Instead, we should celebrate Catholic education as the Church’s key means of evangelization, in human formation that invites the student to know, love and serve God.”
“The message you bring will take root all the more firmly in people’s hearts if you are not only a teacher but also a witness,” the Holy Father said when speaking to catechists and teachers in Uganda last December. “You teach what Jesus taught, you instruct adults and help parents to raise their children in the faith.” He also does not limit this role to teachers, but also faculty and coaches who are in the lives of the children as well. “How important it is that a coach be an example of integrity, of coherence, of good judgment, of impartiality, but also of joy of living, of patience, of capacity to esteem and of benevolence to all, especially the most disadvantaged!” Said Pope Francis in May. “And how important it is that he be an example of faith! All of us, in life, are in need of educators; mature, wise and balanced persons that help us grow in the family, in study, in work, in the faith,” he added.
Questions about the leniency of divorced and remarried families receiving Holy Communion is expected to be addressed, as well as how the LGBT should be addressed, and during the Synods there had been a clear division of opinions in that regard. There was, however, a unified idea that families need to have an increased and renewed focus on the church from all involved at the Synods.
“I expect the papal document to be a typical Bergoglio combination of challenge and encouragement,” said Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia, using Francis’ family name, according to National Catholic Reporter. “This pope has a strange ability to say things which can be quite searing but end up being heartening.”
“If the pope can get the mix of encouragement and challenge right, he’ll be the unifier that Peter is meant to be, leading us beyond ideological dogfights and confirming us in the faith.”
Pope Francis’ addressing of the topics of divorced and remarried Catholics has become “the most important moment in the Church in the last 50 years. This was the biggest sign of hope that in the Catholic Church there are ideas, and we can talk about it. No one before Francis ever had the courage to think about that,” according to Faggioli.