Pope opens synod with call for bishops to stop in-fighting

Sun Oct 5, 2014 9:11am EDT
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis opened a global Roman Catholic assembly on Sunday showing his apparent irritation with Church leaders who have waged a sometimes bitter public battle between progressives and conservatives on family issues.

The synod is the first since Francis's election 19 months ago with a mandate to turn around an institution hit by declining membership in many countries and scandals including the sexual abuse of children by priests and irregularities in Vatican finances.

It is seen as a test case for the pontiff's vision of a Church he wants to be closer to the poor and suffering and not obsessed by issues such as homosexuality, abortion and contraception.

Francis, in the sermon of a solemn Mass in St. Peter's Basilica formally opening the synod with nearly 200 bishops in attendance, alluded to in-fighting that preceded the gathering and made clear that it did not please him.

"Synod assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent," he said. Comparing the Church to a vineyard, he said that all of it had to be nurtured with freedom, creativity and hard work.

Liberals in the Church say that conservatives are trying to dictate the outcome of the synod, particularly over the issue of whether the Church should modify teachings that deny communion to Catholics who have divorced and then remarried in civil services.

No immediate changes are expected to result from the synod, though it will prepare the way for a larger gathering of Catholic clerics next year, which will present the pope with suggestions that could lead to changes in issues related to the family and sexual morality.


Pope Francis greets a cardinal as he leaves at the end of a mass to mark the opening of the synod on the family in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican October 5, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile