Read the English translation of the relatio post disceptationem

Introduction

Part I

Listening: the context and challenges to the family

The socio-cultural context

The relevance of emotional life

Pastoral challenges

Part II

The gaze on Christ: the Gospel of the Family

The gaze on Jesus and gradualness in the history of salvation

The family in God’s salvific plan

The discernment of values present in wounded families and irregular situations

Truth and beauty of the family and mercy

Part III

Facing the situation: pastoral perspectives

Proclaiming the Gospel of the family today, in various contexts

Guiding engaged couples in their preparation for marriage

Accompanying the Married Couple in the Initial Years of Marriage

Positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation

Caring for broken families (separated couples, the divorced who have not remarried,

the divorced and remarried)

Providing for homosexual persons

The transmission of life and the challenge of declining birthrate

The challenge of education and the role of the family in evangelisation

Conclusion

* * *

Introduction

1. During the prayer vigil held in St Peter’s Square on 4 October 2014 in preparation for the Synod on the family, Pope Francis evoked the centrality of the experience of family in all lives, in a simple and concrete manner: “Evening falls on our assembly. It is the hour at which one willingly returns home to meet at the same table, in the depth of affection, of the good that has been done and received, of the encounters which warm the heart and make it grow, good wine which hastens the unending feast in the days of man. It is also the weightiest hour for one who finds himself face to face with his own loneliness, in the bitter twilight of shattered dreams and broken plans; how many people trudge through the day in the blind alley of resignation, of abandonment, even resentment: in how many homes the wine of joy has been less plentiful, and therefore, also the zest — the very wisdom — for life […]. Let us make our prayer heard for one another this evening, a prayer for all”.

2. The source of joys and trials, of deep affections and relations – at times wounded – the family is truly a “school of humanity” (“Familia schola quaedam uberioris humanitatis est”, Vatican Council II, Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 52), of which we are in great need. Despite the many signs of crisis in the institution of the family in various contexts of the “global village”, the desire for family remains alive, especially among the young, and is at the root of the Church’s need to proclaim tirelessly and with profound conviction the “Gospel of the family” entrusted to her with the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ.

3. The Bishop of Rome called upon the Synod of Bishops to reflect upon the situation of the family, decisive and valuable, in its Extraordinary General Assembly of October 2014, a reflection which will then be pursued in greater depth in the Ordinary General Assembly scheduled to take place in October 2015, as well as during the full intervening year between the two synodal events. “The convenire in unum around the Bishop of Rome is already an event of grace, in which episcopal collegiality is made manifest in a path of spiritual and pastoral discernment”: thus Pope Francis described the synodal experience, indicating its tasks in the dual process of listening to the signs of God and the history of mankind and in the resulting dual and unique fidelity.

4. In the light of the same discourse we have gathered together the results of our reflections and our dialogues in the following three parts: listening, to look at the situation of the family today, in the complexity of its light and shade; looking, our gaze fixed on Christ, to re-evaluate with renewed freshness and enthusiasm what the revelation transmitted in the faith of the Church tells us about the beauty and dignity of the family; and discussion in the light of the Lord Jesus to discern the ways in which the Church and society can renew their commitment to the family.

Part I

Listening: the context and challenges to the family

The socio-cultural context

5. Anthropological and cultural change today influences all aspects of life and requires an analytic and diversified approach, able to discern the positive forms of individual freedom. It is necessary to be aware of the growing danger represented by an exasperated individualism that distorts family bonds and ends up considering each component of the family as an isolated unit, leading in some cases to the prevalence of an idea of the subject formed according to his or her own wishes, which are assumed as absolute.

6. The most difficult test for families in our time is often solitude, which destroys and gives rise to a general sensation of impotence in relation to the socio-economic situation that often ends up crushing them. This is due to growing precariousness in the workplace that is often experienced as a nightmare, or due to heavy taxation that certainly does not encourage young people to marriage.

7. Some cultural and religious contexts pose particular challenges. In African societies the practice of polygamy remains, along with, in some traditional contexts, the custom of “marriage in stages”. In other contexts the practice of “arranged marriages” persists. In countries in which Catholicism is a minority religion, there are many mixed marriages with all the difficulties that these may lead to in terms of legal form, the education of children and mutual respect from the point of view of religious freedom, but also with the great potential that derives from the encounter between the differences in faith that these stories of family life present. In many contexts, and not only in the West, the practice of cohabitation before marriage, or indeed cohabitation not orientated towards assuming the form of an institutional bond, is increasingly widespread.

8. Many children are born outside marriage, especially in certain countries, and there are many who subsequently grow up with just one of their parents or in an enlarged or reconstituted family context. The number of divorces is growing and it is not rare to encounter cases in which decisions are taken solely on the basis of economic factors. The condition of women still needs to be defended and promoted, as situations of violence within the family are not rare. Children are frequently the object of contention between parents, and are the true victims of family breakdown. Societies riven by violence due to war, terrorism or the presence of organized crime experience deteriorating family situations. Furthermore, migration is another sign of the times, to be faced and understood in terms of the burden of consequences for family life.

The relevance of emotional life

9. Faced with the social framework outlined above, a greater need is encountered among individuals to take care of themselves, to know their inner being, and to live in greater harmony with their emotions and sentiments, seeking a relational quality in emotional life. In the same way, it is possible to encounter a widespread desire for family accompanied by the search for oneself. But how can this attention to the care for oneself be cultivated and maintained, alongside this desire for family? This is a great challenge for the Church too. The danger of individualism and the risk of living selfishly are significant.

10. Today’s world appears to promote limitless affectivity, seeking to explore all its aspects, including the most complex. Indeed, the question of emotional fragility is very current: a narcissistic, unstable or changeable affectivity do not always help greater maturity to be reached. In this context, couples are often uncertain and hesitant, struggling to find ways to grow. Many tend to remain in the early stages of emotional and sexual life. The crisis in the couple destabilizes the family and may lead, through separations and divorce, to serious consequences for adults, children and society as a whole, weakening the individual and social bonds. The decline in population not only creates a situation in which the alternation of generations is no longer assured, but over time also risks leading to economic impoverishment and a loss of hope in the future.

Pastoral challenges

11. In this context the Church is aware of the need to offer a meaningful word of hope. It is necessary to set out from the conviction that man comes from God and that, therefore, a reflection able to reframe the great questions on the meaning of human existence, may find fertile ground in humanity’s most profound expectations. The great values of marriage and the Christian family correspond to the search that distinguishes human existence even in a time marked by individualism and hedonism. It is necessary to accept people in their concrete being, to know how to support their search, to encourage the wish for God and the will to feel fully part of the Church, also on the part of those who have experienced failure or find themselves in the most diverse situations. This requires that the doctrine of the faith, the basic content of which should be made increasingly better known, be proposed alongside with mercy.

PART II

The gaze upon Christ: the Gospel of the Family

The gaze upon Jesus and gradualness in the history of salvation

12. In order to “walk among contemporary challenges, the decisive condition is to maintain a fixed gaze on Jesus Christ, to pause in contemplation and in adoration of His Face. … Indeed, every time we return to the source of the Christian experience, new paths and undreamed of possibilities open up” (Pope Francis, Address of 4 October 2014). Jesus looked upon the women and the men he met with love and tenderness, accompanying their steps with patience and mercy, in proclaiming the demands of the Kingdom of God.

13. From the moment that the order of creation is determined by orientation towards Christ, it becomes necessary to distinguish without separating the various levels through which God communicates the grace of the covenant to humanity. Through the law of gradualness (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 34), typical of divine pedagogy, this means interpreting the nuptial covenant in terms of continuity and novelty, in the order of creation and in that of redemption.

14. Jesus Himself, referring to the primordial plan for the human couple, reaffirms the indissoluble union between man and woman, while understanding that “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Mt 19,8). In this way, He shows how divine condescension always accompanies the path of humanity, directing it towards its new beginning, not without passing through the cross.

The family in God’s salvific plan

15. Since, by their commitment to mutual acceptance and with the grace of Christ couples promise fidelity to one another and openness to life, they acknowledge as constitutive elements of marriage the gifts God offers them, taking their mutual responsability seriously, in His name and before the Church. Now, in faith it is possible to assume the goods of marriage as commitments best maintained with the help of the grace of the sacrament. God consecrates love between spouses and confirms its indissolubility, offering them help in living in fidelity and openness to life. Therefore, the gaze of the Church turns not only to the couple, but to the family.

16. We are able to distinguish three fundamental phases in the divine plan for the family: the family of origins, when God the creator instituted the primordial marriage between Adam and Eve, as a solid foundation for the family: he created them male and female (cg. Gn 1,24-31; 2,4b); the historic family, wounded by sin (cf. Gn 3) and the family redeemed by Christ (cf. Eph 5,21-32), in the image of the Holy Trinity, the mystery from which every true love springs. The sponsal covenant, inaugurated in creation and revealed in the history of God and Israel, reaches its fullest expression with Christ in the Church.

The discernment of values present in wounded families and in irregular situations

17. In considering the principle of gradualness in the divine salvific plan, one asks what possibilities are given to married couples who experience the failure of their marriage, or rather how it is possible to offer them Christ’s help through the ministry of the Church. In this respect, a significant hermeneutic key comes from the teaching of Vatican Council II, which, while it affirms that “although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure … these elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward Catholic unity” (Lumen Gentium, 8).

18. In this light, the value and consistency of natural marriage must first be emphasized. Some ask whether the sacramental fullness of marriage does not exclude the possibility of recognizing positive elements even the imperfect forms that may be found outside this nuptial situation, which are in any case ordered in relation to it. The doctrine of levels of communion, formulated by Vatican Council II, confirms the vision of a structured way of participating in the Mysterium Ecclesiae by baptized persons.

19. In the same, perspective, that we may consider inclusive, the Council opens up the horizon for appreciating the positive elements present in other religions (cf. Nostra Aetate, 2) and cultures, despite their limits and their insufficiencies (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 55). Indeed, looking at the human wisdom present in these, the Church learns how the family is universally considered as the necessary and fruitful form of human cohabitation. In this sense, the order of creation, in which the Christian vision of the family is rooted, unfolds historically, in different cultural and geographical expressions.

20. Realizing the need, therefore, for spiritual discernment with regard to cohabitation, civil marriages and divorced and remarried persons, it is the task of the Church to recognize those seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries. Following the expansive gaze of Christ, whose light illuminates every man (cf. Jn 1,9; cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22), the Church turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings.

Truth and beauty of the family and mercy

21. The Gospel of the family, while it shines in the witness of many families who live coherently their fidelity to the sacrament, with their mature fruits of authentic daily sanctity must also nurture those seeds that are yet to mature, and must care for those trees that have dried up and wish not to be neglected.

22. In this respect, a new dimension of today’s family pastoral consists of accepting the reality of civil marriage and also cohabitation, taking into account the due differences. Indeed, when a union reaches a notable level of stability through a public bond, is characterized by deep affection, responsibility with regard to offspring, and capacity to withstand tests, it may be seen as a germ to be accompanied in development towards the sacrament of marriage. Very often, however, cohabitation is established not with a view to a possible future marriage, but rather without any intention of establishing an institutionally-recognized relationship.

23. Imitating Jesus’ merciful gaze, the Church must accompany her most fragile sons and daughters, marked by wounded and lost love, with attention and care, restoring trust and hope to them like the light of a beacon in a port, or a torch carried among the people to light the way for those who are lost or find themselves in the midst of the storm.

Part III

Facing the situation: pastoral perspectives

Proclaiming the Gospel of the family today, in various contexts

24. Discussion at the synod has allowed for agreement on some of the more urgent pastoral needs to be enacted in the particular Churches, in communion cum Petro et sub Petro.

25. Proclaiming the Gospel of the Family is urgently needed in the work of evangelization. The Church has to carry this out with the tenderness of a mother and the clarity of a teacher (cf. Eph 4: 15), in faithfulness to the mercy displayed in Christ’s kenosis. Truth became flesh in human weakness, not to condemn it but to heal it.

26. Evangelizing is the shared responsibility of all God’s people, each according to his or her […] ministry and charism. Without the joyous testimony of married people and families, proclamation, even if correct, risks being misunderstood or submerged by a flurry of words which is characteristic of our societies (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte, 50). On various occasions, the synod fathers emphasized that Catholic families are called upon [..] to be the active agents in every pastoral activity on behalf of the family.

27. The primacy of grace needs to be highlighted and, consequently, the possibilities which the Spirit provides in the Sacrament. It is a question of allowing people to experience that the Gospel of the Family is a joy which “fills hearts and lives”, because in Christ we are “set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness” (Evangelii Gaudium, 1). Bearing in mind the Parable of the Sower (cf. Mt 13; 3), our task is to cooperate in the sowing; the rest is God’s work. We must not forget that, in preaching about the family, the Church is a sign of contradiction.

28. Consequently, this calls for missionary conversion, that is, not to stop at proclaiming a message which is merely theoretical with no connection to people’s real problems. We must continually bear in mind that the crisis of faith has led to a crisis in marriage and the family and, consequently, the transmission of faith from parents to children has often been interrupted. If we confront the situation with a strong faith, the imposition of certain cultural perspectives that weaken the family is of no importance.

29. Conversion has primarily to be seen in the language we use so that it might prove to be effectively meaningful. Proclamation needs to create an experience where the Gospel of the Family responds to the deepest expectations of a person: a response to each’s dignity and complete fulfillment in reciprocity and communion. This does not consists in merely presenting a set of rules but espousing values, which respond to the needs of those who find themselves today, even in the most secularized countries.

30. In this regard, biblical-theological study is indispensable, accompanied by dialogue at all levels. Many insisted on a more positive approach to the richness of various religious experiences, without forgetting the inherent difficulties. In different cultural settings the possibilities need to be first understood and in the light of these, limits and extremes should be rejected.

31. Christian marriage cannot only be considered as a cultural tradition or a social obligation but rather a vocational decision taken with due preparation in a faith-journey and with a proper process of discernment. It is not a matter of creating difficulties and complicating the various phases of formation but examining the issue thoroughly and not being content with theoretical meetings or general orientations.

32. Everyone was in agreement on the necessity of reconsidering all pastoral practices with the family in mind and overcoming its customary emphasis on the individual. For this reason, the synod fathers repeatedly insisted on renewal in the training of priests and other pastoral workers through a greater involvement of families.

33. They equally highlighted the fact that evangelization needs clearly to denounce cultural, social and economic factors, for example, the excessive importance given to market logic which prevents […] authentic family life and leads to discrimination, poverty, exclusion, and violence. Consequently, dialogue and cooperation need to be developed with the social entities and encouragement given to lay people who are involved in cultural and socio-political fields.

Guiding engaged couples in their preparation for marriage

34. The complex social reality and the changes affecting the family today require a greater effort on the part of the whole Christian community in the preparation of those who are about to be married. In this regard, the synod fathers jointly insisted on the need to involve more extensively the entire community by favouring the witness of families themselves and including preparation for marriage in the course of Christian initiation as well as emphasizing the connection between marriage and the other sacraments. Likewise, they felt that specific programmes were needed in preparing couples for marriage, programmes which create a true experience of participation in ecclesial life and thoroughly treat the various aspects of family life.

Accompanying the Married Couple in the Initial Years of Marriage

35. The initial years of marriage are a vital and fragile period during which couples become more aware of the challenges and meaning of married life. Consequently, pastoral accompaniment needs to go beyond the actual celebration of the sacrament. In this regard, experienced couples are of great importance in any pastoral activity. The parish is […] the ideal place for these experienced couples to be of service to younger couples. Married couples need encouragement in the fundamental openness to the great gift of children. The importance of a family spirituality and prayer needs emphasis, where couples are encouraged to meet regularly to promote growth in their spiritual life and solidarity in the concrete demands of life. Meaningful liturgies, devotional practices and the Eucharist celebrated for families were mentioned as vital factors in fostering evangelization through the family.

Positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation

36. A new element in today’s pastoral activity is a sensitivity to the positive aspects of civilly celebrated marriages and, with obvious differences, cohabitation. While clearly presenting the ideal, the Church needs also to indicate the constructive elements in these situations which do not yet or no longer correspond to that ideal.

37. The synod fathers also noted in many countries “an increasing number live together ad experimentum, in unions which have not been religiously or civilly recognized” (Instrumentum Laboris, 81). In Africa this occurs especially in traditional marriages which are arranged between families and often celebrated in different stages. Faced with these situations, the Church is called […] to be “the house of the Father, with doors always wide open […] where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems” (Evangelii Gaudium, 47) and to draw near those who want to resume their faith-journey, even if it is not possible to celebrate a canonically recognized marriage.

38. In the West […] an increasingly large number of people, after living together for a long period of time, seek marriage in the Church. Simply to live together is often a choice based on a overall attitude, opposed to anything institutional and definitive, but also in expectation of a more secure existence (a steady job and income). In other countries de facto marriages are very numerous, not because of a rejection of Christian values concerning the family and matrimony but primarily because celebrating a marriage is too expensive. As a result, material poverty leads people into de facto unions. Furthermore, such unions can display authentic family values or at least an inherent desire for them. Pastoral guidance should always start from these positive aspects.

39. All these situations require a constructive response, seeking to transform them into opportunities which can lead to an actual marriage and family in conformity with the Gospel. These couples need to be provided for and guided patiently and discreetly. With this in mind, the witness of authentic Christian families is particularly appealing and important as agents in the evangelization of the family.

Caring for broken families (the separated, the divorced who have not remarried, the divorced who have remarried)

40. Particularly evident at the Synod was the necessity for courageous pastoral choices. Strongly reconfirming faithfulness to the Gospel of the Family, the synod fathers felt the urgent need to embark on a new pastoral course based on the present reality of weaknesses within the family, recognizing that couples, more often than not, are more “enduring” situations than freely choosing them. These […] situations vary because of personal, […] cultural and socio-economic factors. To apply a single solution for all or one based on a logic of “all or nothing” is not wise. Dialogue and discussion at the Synod is to continue in the local Churches […] among their various components in such a way that the arrived at positions might be fully developed in the work of the approaching Ordinary General Assembly. The guidance of the Holy Spirit, constantly invoked, will permit all God’s people to be faithful to the Gospel of the Family as merciful agents in caring for all situations of human weakness.

41. Every broken family should, above all, be heard with respect and love and be accompanied on their journey as Christ accompanied the disciples of the road to Emmaus. In a particular way, the words of Pope Francis apply in these situations: “The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this ‘art of accompaniment’, which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Es 3: 5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting a closeness and compassion which, at the same time, heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life” (Evangelii Gaudium, 169).

42. This discernment is indispensable for the separated and divorced. Respect needs to be primarily given to the suffering of those who have endured separation and divorce unjustly. To forgive such an injustice is not easy, but grace makes this journey possible. At the same time, the synod fathers emphasized the necessity of addressing, in a faithful and constructive fashion, the consequences of separation or divorce on children, who must not become an “object” of contention. Instead, every suitable means ought to be sought to ensure that they overcome the trauma of a family break-up and grow as peacefully as possible.

43. Various synod fathers emphasized the need to make annulment cases more accessible and less time-consuming. They proposed, among others, the dispensation of the requirement of second instance for confirming sentences; the possibility of establishing an administrative means under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop; and a simple process to be used in cases where nullity is clearly evident. According to authoritative proposals, the question of the faith of the persons to be married should be possibly examined in considering the validity of the Sacrament of Marriage. In all these cases, ascertaining the truth about the validity of the bond is uppermost.

44. Many synod fathers requested the streamlining of the procedure of marriage cases as well as the preparation of a sufficient number of persons — clerics and lay people — entirely dedicated to this work. This will require the increased responsibility of the diocesan bishop, who could designate in his diocese a specially trained priest who would be able to offer advice to the concerned parties on the validity of their marriage.

45. Divorced people who have not remarried should be invited to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life. The local community and pastors ought to accompany these people with solicitude, particularly when children are involved or when in serious financial difficulty.

46. Likewise, those who are divorced and remarried require careful discernment and an accompaniment of great respect, while avoiding any language or behavior which might be construed as discrimination. Caring for such persons by the Christian community is not a weakening of its faith and its witness to the indissolubility of marriage, but, in this manner, the community precisely expresses its charity.

47. As to the possibility of partaking of the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, some synod fathers argued in favour of the present regulations because of their theological foundation, while others were in favour of a broader outlook with well-defined conditions, when dealing with situations that cannot be resolved without creating new injustices and suffering. For some, access to the sacraments might take place if preceded by a penitential practice — determined by the diocesan bishop — and a clear commitment in favour of the children. This would not be a possibility applied to all, but the fruit of a discernment […] on a case-by-case basis, according to the law of gradualness, which takes into consideration the distinction between a state of sin, the state of grace and […] extenuating circumstances.

48. The suggestion of limiting these persons to the practice of “spiritual communion” was questioned by many synod fathers. If spiritual communion is possible, why not allow them to partake in the Sacrament? Consequently, greater theological study was requested, beginning with the links between the Sacrament of Marriage and the Eucharist in relation to […] Church-Sacrament. Likewise, the moral aspect of the problem requires further consideration, listening to and illuminating the consciences of these persons.

49. The problems relative to mixed marriages were frequently raised in the interventions of the synod fathers. The differences in the matrimonial regulations of the Orthodox Churches creates serious problems in certain contexts which require suitable responses in communion with the Pope. The same applies to inter-religious marriages.

Providing for homosexual persons

50. Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing […] them […] a place of fellowship in our communities? Oftentimes, they want to encounter a Church which offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of this, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

51. The question of homosexuality requires serious reflection on how to devise realistic approaches to affective growth, human development and maturation in the Gospel, while integrating the sexual aspect, all of which constitute an important educative challenge. Moreover, the Church affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same level as marriage between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that the pastor’s outlook be pressured or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations based on gender ideology.

52. Without denying the moral problems associated with homosexual unions, there are instances where mutual assistance to the point of sacrifice is a valuable support in the life of these persons. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to […] children who live with same-sex couples and stresses that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.

The transmission of life and the challenge of the declining birthrate

53. Today, the diffusion of a mentality which reduces the generation of life to accommodate an individual’s or couple’s plans is easily observable. Sometimes, economic factors are burdensome, contributing to a sharp drop in the birthrate which weakens the social fabric, thus compromising relations between generations and rendering a future outlook less certain. Openness to life is an intrinsic requirement of married love.

54. Realistic language is probably also needed in this instance, language which knows how to start by listening to people and acknowledging the beauty and truth of an unconditional openness to life as that which human life needs to live life fully. This serves as the basis for an appropriate teaching regarding the natural methods of human reproduction, which allow a couple to live in a harmonious and conscious manner the communication between husband and wife, in all its aspects, along with their responsibility at procreating life. In this regard, we should return to the message of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI, which highlights the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of regulating births.

55. Affectivity needs assistance, also in marriage, as a path to maturity in the ever deepening acceptance of the other and an ever-fuller gift of self. This necessitates offering programmes of formation which nourish married life and the importance of the laity providing an accompaniment consisting of a lived testimony. Undoubtedly, the example of the faithful is of great assistance, as well as their profound love shown in their tenderness, and respect which is capable of growing over time and, in opening itself to the generation of life, creates an experience of a mystery that transcends us.

The challenge of education and the role of the family in evangelisation

56. The fundamental challenge facing families today is undoubtedly that of raising children, rendered more difficult and complex by today’s cultural reality. Consideration, then, needs to be given to the needs and expectations of families who are capable of bearing witness in their daily lives and in places of growth and the concrete and essential transmission of the virtues, which gives form to our existence.

57. In this regard, the Church can assume a valuable role in supporting families, starting with Christian initiation and being welcoming communities. More than ever, these communities today are to offer support to parents, in complex situations and everyday life, in their work of raising their children, accompanying children, adolescents and young people in their development through personalized pastoral programmes capable of introducing them to the full meaning of life and encouraging them in their choices and responsibilities lived in the light of the Gospel.

Conclusion

58. These proposed reflections, the fruit of synodal discussion which took place in great freedom and a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate outlooks that will later be developed and clarified by […] reflection in the local Churches in the intervening year leading to the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, scheduled for October, 2015. These are not decisions taken nor simply various points of view. Nevertheless, the collegial journey of the bishops and the involvement of all God’s people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit will guide us in finding the road to truth and mercy for all. This has been the wish of Pope Francis from the beginning of our work, inviting us to exercise the courage of faith and humbly and honestly embrace the truth in charity.