by Rev. Nicholas L Gregoris

Pope Francis has called us to focus our attention more on the peripheries of the world, so I thought that I would take a little mental journey to the exotic land of India which, although the world's largest democracy and the fastest growing country after China, is still only two percent Christian -- and ever a land of much mystery and mystique from its exquisite silks and delicate spices (e.g., curry) to its sacred cows, temples, and rivers (Ganges).

For us Catholic-Christians, we reverence India as the land of the "Thomas Christians" where St. Thomas the Apostle, one of the original Twelve, is said to have first evangelized after Our Lord's Ascension into Heaven.

What directly inspired me to write this article was listening to the presentation of His Beatitude, Baselios Cleemis Cardinal Thottonkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum and President of the Episcopal Conference of India at the Sala Stampa Briefing of Saturday, October 10‎. So, the following day, at my residence here in Rome, I sat down for an extensive and fascinating interview with a diverse group of Indian priests, both diocesan and religious.

 by Nicholas L. Gregoris

One of the most significant critiques of the "Instrumentum Laboris," which is the working document at the Synod of the Bishops on the Family, is that it does not take into adequate consideration the perspectives of local Churches outside of Europe and the Western hemisphere in general.

It is to be hoped that the present work of the small language discussion groups will be able to bridge that gap, so that the Final Document of the Synod will succeed in expressing both the unity of our Catholic Faith and its splendid diversity as it is lived in a multitude of global cultures with particular languages and traditions.

Surely while seeking to solidify this unity in diversity, and diversity in unity, the Synod Fathers, strengthened by the presence and input of other participants, clerical and lay, will address important issues like "mixed marriages" and "disparity of cult." There is often confusion, at least in common parlance, when dealing with these realities that, at the same time, are profoundly rooted in the theology of the Church and, therefore, likewise in the Church's Code of Canon Law.

by Rev. Nicholas L. Gregoris

At today’s (Oct 8th) "Briefing" in the Sala Stampa, on the fourth full day of the Synod Father's deliberations, a key topic that emerged was the Church in Africa and the problems it is facing with regard to marriage and family in the Church and contemporary society. The main spokesman of the African Bishops at Thursday's "Briefing" was Archbishop Palmer-Buckler.

At a certain point, he was asked a question by Francis Di Bernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry. New Ways is a pro-LGBTQ organization that pro-actively advocates to have the Catholic Church change her teaching on homosexuality, meaning that the Church should fully condone homosexual activity, same-sex unions, and same-sex marriage. This organization has time and again been strongly condemned as blatantly heterodox by several U.S. Bishops, indeed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops itself.

So one may logically ask: Why was such an extreme organization accredited by the Holy See's Press Office, let alone their chief representative called upon to ask a question of a Synod Father at one of the daily press briefings?

by Rev. Nicholas L. Gregoris

Blessed Paul VI (who, by the way, was beatified by Pope Francis at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod last October) in formulating the "Credo of the People of God," noted that if theologians were able to propose an equivalent expression for the term "transubstantiation"-- without obviously changing the essential teaching of the Church concerning Our Lord's Real Presence in the Eucharist -- then the Magisterium might welcome such a change as legitimate.  

To date, however, I am unaware of any theologian in the universal Church who has made such an innovative discovery, so that, at least, as far as this theologian is concerned (and so it seems is likewise evident in the Catechism of the Catholic Church) "transubstantiation" remains unchallenged as the operative theological term to express our Catholic belief that the offerings of bread and wine during the consecratory formula of the Eucharistic Prayer (Canon of the Mass) are really and substantially changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

With this background in place, let us take our time machine forward almost 50 years to discuss the significance of theological language in the Extraordinary and Ordinary Synods of 2014 and 2015, respectively.

By Rev. Nicholas L. Gregoris

During Wednesday's audience (October 7), the Holy Father spoke of how, upon calling Peter to follow Him, Jesus told the first Pope to make "fishers of men."  The emphasis here is on plurality and diversity in the human family, of men and women who at the present time may find themselves marginalized, on the periphery, on the outside looking in. Pope Francis then made an affirmation that for this reason (that is, if the Church is going to bring into her fold --  into the "barque of Peter" more people, more believers), she will have to use "new nets" for this purpose. 

by Rev. Nicholas L. Gregoris

One of the consistent complaints being registered in the "circuli minores," or small discussion groups at the Synod is that the "Instrumentum Laboris," which is the primary text being discussed at the Synod, does not take into account non-Western, non-European perspectives on the family.  A particularly poignant critique of the "Instrumentum Laboris" in this regard has come from the African Bishops.

We should note here that even before the Synod began many Bishops expressed concern with the "Instrumentum Laboris." In the lead-up to the Synod, and then again in the first session this past Monday, several Bishops suggested that the "Instrumentum Laboris" be put aside, so that the Bishops could come up with a new working document more firmly rooted in Sacred Scripture and in the Church's rich Magisterial tradition on social doctrine. 

Bishop Bernard Fellay is petitioning Pope Francis to use his papal voice in a clear and firm defence of the sacrament of matrimony! The Society of St. Pius X has just published a petition submitted by its Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay, to Pope Francis asking him to publicly defend the institution of holy matrimony. The original text was published in French and has been translated for Catholic Voice by Kieron Wood. 

Bishop Fellay respectfully begins his petition to the Supreme Pontiff by stating that "It is with grave concern that we see around us the gradual degradation of marriage and the family, the origin and foundation of all human society. This decay is beginning to accelerate strongly, notably through the legal promotion of the most immoral and depraved behaviour." The superior general observes that  "the law of God, even the natural law, is today publicly trampled underfoot, the most serious sins multiply dramatically and cry to Heaven for vengeance."The entire petition follows: