Church should not fear change, pope says at synod close
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis has closed an assembly of Catholic bishops that revealed deep divisions on how to respond to homosexuality and divorce, saying on Sunday the Church should not be afraid of change and new challenges.
Francis, who has said he wants a more merciful and less rigid Church, made his comments in a sermon to some 70,000 people in St. Peter's Square for the ceremonial closing of a two-week assembly, known as a synod.
The working session of the gathering ended on Saturday night with a final document that reversed a historic acceptance of gays by the Church made just a week earlier -- a result some progressives see as a setback for Francis.
"God is not afraid of new things. That is why he is continuously surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways," the pope said.
At the Mass, he beatified Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978, bringing the pontiff best known for concluding the ground-breaking reforms of the Second Vatican Council and enshrining the Church's ban on contraception a step closer to sainthood.
After an initial draft of the synod's final document was released on Monday, conservative bishops vowed to row back on the upbeat tone adopted regarding gays, cohabitation and re-marriage, saying it would create confusion among the faithful and threatened to undermine the traditional family.
Francis dedicated most of his sermon to the synod, which tackled themes such as homosexuality, divorce, re-marriage, and same-sex couples ahead of a definitive gathering next October after more discussions at a local level around the world.
He said the Church had "to respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way". He spoke about courage a day after telling the bishops at their last working session to beware both "hostile rigidity" by doctrinal conservatives as well as "destructive good will" by those seeking change at any cost. Continued...