By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Sunday, October 4, 2015


Photo  from Vatican Radio
Well, it has finally begun. Yesterday the Synod on the Family 2015 was inaugurated with solemn mass at St. Peter's Basilica, presided by the Holy Father. All Synod Fathers concelebrated, including yours truly. Providentially, the Gospel for the Mass gave us the teaching of Jesus on marriage.

Reflecting upon this passage, the Holy Father gave us clear and strong marching orders as we enter into synod. The Church, he reminded us, must at all times be faithful to the words of Jesus, her divine Master, and reach out to all families with the truth and charity of his Gospel. The Pope, it seems to me, could not have chosen a more timely topic when he called for a Synod on the Family. In fact, this is the second in two years on this subject! Marriage is beautiful, authored by God from the beginning as an indissoluble union between one man and one woman, whose mutual love is fruitful in the procreation of new human life. Yet families today face a bewildering range of new ideas pertaining to marriage and human sexuality, and live in the context of new and increasing threats to the dignity of human life. The pressures on family life are enormous, and often cause great stress. We Bishops want to offer clarity, hope and encouragement, and this will be the aim of our time together.

I'm looking forward to the discussions. Pope Francis has called for open and fraternal dialogue among the Bishops. Since this is my first experience of a Synod, I'm interested to see how the process and procedures will allow for this. It should be fascinating and enlightening. After all, the nearly 300 Bishops participating in this ecclesial gathering represent every continent of the world. I look forward, for example, to hearing what my Brother Bishops from Africa bring to the discussion. Their experience is quite different from that of the North American culture from which I shall speak. And think, too, of what the Bishops of the Middle East might say, given the tremendous heartache suffered by their families trapped in terrible violence or forced to become refugees. These are just a couple of examples pointing to what I believe will be very rich discussions.

I join with other Bishops, but we all know the chief protagonist here is the Holy Spirit, whose mission is to remind us of the teachings of Jesus Christ and thus lead us into all truth. Please pray for all of us, that we might clearly discern the Spirit's promptings as we formulate recommendations to our beloved Holy Father, Pope Francis.