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Dear friends

8 days after watching the Synod from my home in Germany I came back to Rome on Wednesday, October 20. It’s the day when the working “Circolo minori” groups of the Synode had finished their work at noon and the plenary discussions in the Synod hall start in the afternoon. Again it was very easy for me to contact some of the Synod members when they passed the Swiss Gard on their way to lunch. Benedictine Father Jeremias Schroeder from Germany, one of the 10 representatives of the man religious, told me about the open atmosphere in his group “Anglicus C”. But in the third period of the “Circolo minori” the discussion became tense about pastoral approaches for divorced remarried couples and homosexuals, he said. (read his blog: http://www.katholisch.de/aktuelles/themenseiten/aus-der-aula)

It seems to be very difficult to close the gap between the “unchangeable doctrine of indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage” (the Synod fathers themselves criticised already the wording of indissolubility) and pastoral approaches for remarried couples. Our friend Luigi Sandri, whom I met in front of Sala Stampa, stated: It is wrong that following the present doctrine a murderer after confession can receive the Holy Communion, a remarried couple will never be allowed to.

I met many friends and journalist in today’s press briefing. But I was very disappointed about the three presenters. Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Spain talked mainly talked about the “streamlined procedure” of annulment of marriage. But that “moto propio” was already released before the Synod and is by not a sufficient fruit of the Synod. Cardinal Alberto Suarez Inda of Mexico repeated the severe problems of families in his diocese who are separated because many people have migrated to the US. But wasn’t it the programme of the first week to analyse the situations families have to cope with? Finally Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa partly defended “arranged marriage” as part of the African culture. But does this confer with the Christian concept of marriage of two persons who can elect each other in freedom? Napier also made clear that he had wanted Pope Francis only to clear up the Vatican bureaucracy, nothing else. And he tried to explain why he signed the “private letter” of 13 Cardinals to the Pope complaining about the procedure of this Synod. Today he declared he is totally happy with the procedure. Do the conservatives have already the impression that they have “won” the battle against the reformers?

Last week the German speaking working group “Germanicus” published their results which seemed to be quite hopefully. Even Cardinal Mueller agreed about the pastoral approach that in “extreme exemptions” divorced remarried couples could receive the sacraments again. The intensive discussion in different language groups are one of the great advantages of this Synod. But for observers and I think even for the participants of the Synod it is very difficult to have an overview about the whole process because many important documents, e.g. the 39 results of the 13 “circolo minori” in 3 weeks were not translated into other languages. Now the 10 persons of the commission who were appointed by the Pope to write the final summary have the most difficult job possible. There are more than 1000 amendments (“modi”) of the 13 working groups to the “Instrumentum laboris”, the base of their work.   

Beside the slow and difficult progress of the Synod Pope Francis himself is giving so much hope. I think it was very clever that on Saturday, October 17 there was the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Synod. The opening speech of Vienna Cardinal Schoenborn was quite good (https://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=26454) but was beaten by far by the speech of Pope Francis (http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/pope-calls-listening-church). I like very much the symbolic sidestep of Francis when he opened a homeless shelter in the house of the Jesuits in Rome on October 16th  (http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-makes-secret-stop-at-new-dorms-for-romes-homeless-17118/).

Cardinal Pell in a recent interview the French “Le Figaro” tried to speak out the conflict between the followers of Card. Kasper and Card. Mueller. But, I think, that is not a “synodal way” of arguments and reflection. I’m very interested how German Cardinal Marx will answer to Pell’s attack in the press briefing on Wednesday. But the Synod is not yet completed. As Robert Mickens reminded us the other day: The Synod of Bishops was intended to be a permanent institution. What we now have is the 14th Assembly of the Synod.

Last evening together with Thomas Seiterich from German newspaper “Publik-Forum” attended the very impressive evening prayer of Sant’Egidio in Trastevere. While I’m writing this diary in Residenza Madre Pie, very close to the Vatican, and can hear the loudspeakers of today’s audience in front of the Basilica.

On the web I just see Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, Director of the Holy See Press Office quoted “The spread of the totally unfounded news of the health condition of the Holy Father on the part of an Italian news agency is seriously irresponsible and not worthy of attention.” But if he would be really ill what unbelievable damage to our hopes and to our church.

Best wishes from Rome