On 8 October 2013, Pope Francis convoked the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to treat the topic: The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization. The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops began its preparation by sending the Preparatory Document, which generated significant reflection among the People of God. The results of that consultation are presented in this Instrumentum Laboris. The Holy Father has determined that the work of Synod of Bishops is to take place in two stages, forming an single organic unity. In the III Extraordinary General Assembly in 2014, the synod fathers will thoroughly examine and analyze the information, testimonies and recommendations received from the particular Churches in order to respond to the new challenges of the family. The Ordinary General Assembly in 2015, representing a great part of the episcopate and continuing the work of the previous synod, will reflect further on the points discussed so as to formulate appropriate pastoral guidelines.
The Instrumentum Laboris is based on the responses to the questions in the Preparatory Document which was divided into 8 groups of questions on marriage and the family. After its publication in November, 2013, this document was distributed worldwide. A great number of detailed responses to the questions was submitted by the synods of the Eastern Catholic Churchessui iuris, the episcopal conferences, the departments of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General. In addition, other responses — categorized as observations — were sent directly to the General Secretariat by a significant number of dioceses, parishes, movements, groups, ecclesial associations and families, not to mention academic institutions, specialists, both Catholic and non-Catholic, all interested in sharing their reflections.
The present text is divided into three parts and, for an orderly treatment at the synodal assembly, reflects the eight major subjects treated in the series of questions. The first part, devoted to the Gospel of the Family, treats the divine plan and the vocation of the person in Christ. Within this perspective, the section gives indications — positive as well as negative — of the faithful’s knowledge and acceptance of pertinent teachings on the family from the Bible and the documents of the Church’s Magisterium as well as the faithful’s understanding of the natural law. The second part treats various challenges and actual situations related to the pastoral care of the family. The third part is devoted to the topic of an openness to life and the responsibility of parents in the upbringing of their children — characteristic of marriage between a man and a woman — with particular reference to difficult pastoral situations.
The present document, the fruit of a collegial effort by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat to gather and examine the results of the consultation of the particular Churches, is placed in the hands of the members of the Synod Assembly as the Instrumentum Laboris. The document offers a broad, yet by no means exhaustive, perspective on the present-day situation of the family, on the challenges of the family and on the reflections related to the family today.
The topics which are not included in the document, those in response to question 9 in thePreparatory Document (miscellaneous), will be treated in the Ordinary General Assembly of 2015.
Vatican City, 24 June 2014
Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist
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