In its concluding Message, the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome has reaffirmed the Church's unbroken teaching on marriage and the family and urged bishops, priests and the laity to protect and defend marriage, while dealing compassionately with those whose marriages are in trouble or have failed.
Because there has been a great deal of confused media coverage on the Synod, particularly after a mid-term report appeared to call for a revision of Church teaching on the reception of the Eucharist by divorced and remarried Catholics and a change in policy on homosexuality.
The final message of the Synod did not contain these ambiguities. Key extracts of the message are published below.
Synod's final message
We, Synod Fathers, gathered in Rome together with Pope Francis in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, greet all families of the different continents and in particular all who follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We admire and are grateful for the daily witness which you offer us and the world with your fidelity, faith, hope, and love.
We offer you the words of Christ: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me" (Rev 3:20).
On his journeys along the roads of the Holy Land, Jesus would enter village houses. He continues to pass even today along the streets of our cities. In your homes there are light and shadow.
Challenges often present themselves and at times even great trials. The darkness can grow deep to the point of becoming a dense shadow when evil and sin work into the heart of the family.
We recognise the great challenge to remain faithful in conjugal love. Enfeebled faith and indifference to true values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and stress that excludes reflection leave their mark on family life.
There are often crises in marriage, often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another. Failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic, where the Christian choice is not obvious.
We recall the difficulties caused by economic systems, by the "the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose" ( Evangelii gaudium, 55) which weakens the dignity of people.
Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone. We warmly thank our pastors, lay faithful, and communities who accompany couples and families and care for their wounds.
There is also the evening light behind the windowpanes in the houses of the cities, in modest residences of suburbs and villages, and even in mere shacks, which shines out brightly, warming bodies and souls. This light - the light of a wedding story - shines from the encounter between spouses: it is a gift, a grace expressed, as the Book of Genesis says (2:18), when the two are "face to face" as equal and mutual helpers.
The love of man and woman teaches us that each needs the other in order to be truly self. Each remains different from the other that opens self and is revealed in the reciprocal gift. It is this that the bride of the Song of Songs sings in her canticle: "My beloved is mine and I am his ... I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine" (Song of Songs, 2:16; 6:3).
This authentic encounter begins with courtship, a time of waiting and preparation. It is realised in the sacrament where God sets his seal, his presence, and grace.
This path also includes sexual relationship, tenderness, intimacy, and beauty capable of lasting longer than the vigour and freshness of youth. Such love, of its nature, strives to be forever to the point of laying down one's life for the beloved (cf Jn 15:13).
In this light conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties.
This love spreads through fertility and generativity, which involves not only the procreation of children but also the gift of divine life in baptism, their catechesis, and their education. It includes the capacity to offer life, affection, and values - an experience possible even for those who have not been able to bear children.
This journey is sometimes a mountainous trek with hardships and falls. God is always there to accompany us. The family experiences his presence in affection and dialogue between husband and wife, parents and children, sisters and brothers.
They embrace him in family prayer and listening to the Word of God-a small, daily oasis of the spirit. They discover him every day as they educate their children in the faith and in the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel, a life of holiness.
Grandparents also share in this task with great affection and dedication. The family is thus an authentic domestic Church that expands to become the family of families which is the ecclesial community. Christian spouses are called to become teachers of faith and of love for young couples as well.
The high point which sums up all the threads of communion with God and neighbour is the Sunday Eucharist when the family and the whole Church sits at table with the Lord. He gives himself to all of us, pilgrims through history towards the goal of the final encounter when "Christ is all and in all" (Col 3:11).
In the first stage of our Synod itinerary, therefore, we have reflected on how to accompany those who have been divorced and remarried and on their participation in the sacraments.
We Synod Fathers ask you walk with us towards the next Synod. The presence of the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their modest home hovers over you. United to the Family of Nazareth, we raise to the Father of all our petition for the families of the world.