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Truth will overcome tainted depictions of Synod of Bisops, says Cardinal Wuerl

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VATICAN CITY — The Synod of Bishops on the family is not being manipulated, rather the distortion rests in how it is being depicted or seen by a number of people, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.

“I don’t think the synod itself has been tainted, but the lens through which it is being seen by many, many people has been tainted, and so I suspect that that will have some impact,” he said in an interview Oct. 18 with the Jesuit magazine America.

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington talks with Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna as they leave the opening session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 5. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington talks with Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna as they leave the opening session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 5. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“It’s not going to be a long-term impact because you can only paint something in false tones and have it remain understood incorrectly for so long, after a while the church wins out,” he said, adding that “the truth is great and it always wins out, even with all of this propaganda and all of this distortion.”

The cardinal said he has participated in seven synods, and he also attended the very first general assembly in 1967 as a secretary to a synod father.

He said much-welcome changes have been made to the synod on the family that “allow the bishops to come together and to speak very openly and very clearly about whatever they think needs to be said.”

The bishops themselves have long been asking for less time spent listening to written speeches being read aloud and more time for small-group discussions “because that’s where the real debate takes place,” he said.

The 13 small groups elect their own representatives who then hand in summaries that have been approved by the group to a 10-member writing committee charged with drafting a final document the synod will vote on and give to the pope.

Cardinal Wuerl, who is on this papally appointed drafting committee, told America, “I don’t see how you can manipulate all of those groups and all of the people leading them.”

In fact, the creation of a larger drafting committee was an improvement on a previous process that was not “working very well.” During last year’s extraordinary synod, “there was this great outcry” that the first interim report drafted by two top-ranking members of the synod wasn’t done well, so the pope added more bishops to the process.

“I don’t see any of that as manipulative. I see it as widening the participation of the bishops,” he said.

“Now there are some bishops whose position is that we shouldn’t be discussing any of this anyway. They were the ones at the last synod that were giving interviews, and denouncing and claiming there were intrigues and manipulation,” he told the magazine.

Such accusations, he said, do not have “a foundation in reality. I just think that these are people who have their own position and they just want to articulate that.”

The synod has no intention of changing church teaching, Cardinal Wuerl said, so perhaps the charges or discontent are motivated by not liking the pope or the way he calls people to live the Gospel.

“I wonder if some of these people who are speaking, sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes halfway implying, then backing off and then twisting around, I wonder if it is really that they find they just don’t like this pope. I wonder if that isn’t part of it,” he said.

“Pope Francis is calling for a church that, to my mind, is much more in contact with the Gospel, with the living out of the Gospel. Not just the articulation of the Gospel, the voicing of the Gospel, the proclaiming of the Gospel, but the personal living of it,” he said. While many people find this approach “attractive,” he said, “for reasons known only to them, there are some who find this somewhat threatening.”

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Heart of bishops’ family synod is finding how to reach out with God’s mercy, Cardinal Wuerl says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The heart of the Synod of Bishops on the family is the challenge of discerning ways to reach out with God’s mercy to people, who might not be perfect, and to help them move closer to perfection, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington leaves a session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington leaves a session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The first step, the cardinal said, is to “recognize what the human condition is and that we are all caught up in it; that’s what the fall was all about and that’s what Jesus’ death on the cross was all about. We do live in an imperfect world and each one of us is imperfect, but we also have the salvific grace of God at work in each one of us.”

Cardinal Wuerl, speaking to Catholic News Service Oct. 9, said it was important for the synod members to show people around the world both that the church still believes firmly that marriage and family are blessings, but also that church leaders know there are challenges raised by society and by the individuals themselves.

“I think it’s good for people to hear that their shepherds recognize that they are struggling, that it isn’t as easy as it sounds in the catechism,” he said. “At the same time, God’s grace is at work in our lives.”

Many at the synod, he said, are echoing Pope Francis’ call, “Go out. Meet people. The church has an obligation to meet people where they are, encounter them where they are. Not to scold them, but to accompany them on the faith journey.”

Cardinal Wuerl said he is always touched by the pope’s addition of a reminder that “if you accompany them, maybe both of you will get closer to Jesus.”

The key to the pastoral care of families, both the strong and the weak, is Pope Francis’ call to go out and to encounter, the cardinal said.

“Now when you encounter someone, you have to do that with respect,” he said. “Does that mean acceptance of their lifestyle? Not necessarily. But you have to respect them for who they are. And then you begin to walk with them, trying to understand where they are while also inviting them to draw closer to Christ.

“I think that’s what this pope asks us to do: respect people,” he said. “You don’t have to approve what they’re doing, but if you are going to walk with them, you have to do so with a sense of respect.”

Speaking after hearing the reports of all the synod’s small working groups, Cardinal Wuerl said one common thread was that while the church needs to recognize “all of the problems that marriage is facing today, we also need to weave into that the witness, the testimony of all those people who are living successful family life, who are living successful marriages.”

But if the synod does not speak openly and honestly about the challenges, he said, nobody will listen to the rest of what the synod has to say.

While people do not need a “fervorino,” a pious pep talk, “admitting, recognizing and seeing the problems has to be balanced with encouragement that not everybody is succumbing to the problem.”

After listening to the small group reports, synod members, including Cardinal Wuerl, began talking about what the church brings to the reality of the family.

The third section of the synod’s work will deal with what the church’s pastoral response should be, the cardinal said, “and that’s where the challenge of this synod will be and that’s where this synod will be different from past synods because we have been asked to take a look at practical, pastoral responses.”

In his speech to the synod, the cardinal said, “One of the things I touched on was the need to remember a two-fold element: that the fullness of the teaching and the mercy, God’s mercy, as we try to live that teaching, are both elements of the faith. They are both essential and intrinsically related elements of the faith.”

The church always has presented its teaching and called people to live it fully, he said. At the same time, the church always has said, ‘“When you fail, here’s confession. And when you’re struggling, here’s absolution. The thing to do is to get up and keep trying.’ That’s the beauty of our faith.”

Some people who are living the faith more closely may be tempted to feel neglected or even annoyed, Cardinal Wuerl admitted. Jesus knew those people, too.

In the Gospels, he said, “the Good Shepherd goes out after the one lost sheep. In the parable of the prodigal son, the older son is encouraged by the father to be loving and forgiving so that the one who has been away is welcomed back.

“Remember, Jesus also used the parable about a man going out and hiring people at different hours,” but paying them all the same, Cardinal Wuerl said. When people complained, the landowner said, “Are you annoyed with me because I’m generous?”

“Yes, there could be a temptation to say, ‘Look, I’ve struggled in the heat of the sun all day and what reward do I get? Heaven. And this person comes along at the end of the day and what reward does he or she get? Heaven,’” the cardinal said. “What we need to say is, ‘Isn’t it a blessing that Jesus died on the cross so that all of us could have heaven?’”

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Be shepherds concerned only for God and others, pope tells U.S. bishops

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Acknowledging the real challenges and burdens the U.S. bishops face in their ministry, Pope Francis shared with them his own experience as a pastor and urged them to keep their eyes focused on Jesus and their hearts open to others. Read more »

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Pope will visit nation’s capital as a pastor, says Washington cardinal

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis will make history during his visit to Washington in September, when he becomes the first pope to address a joint meeting of Congress and he celebrates the first canonization Mass to be celebrated in the United States. Read more »

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A statement from the Catholic Bishops of Maryland: End of Life Decision Making for the Faithful

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The month of November, which begins with the celebration of the companion feasts of the Solemnity of All Saints and All Souls Day, offers a time for our community of faith to pray in a special way for those who have passed to eternal life. As we remember the saints in heaven, and the souls of all those who have gone before us, this time of year also offers us an opportunity to consider important questions we might face at the hour of our own or a loved one’s death.

On a spiritual level, we pray that our journey of faith each day will lead us to a deeper awareness that this life on earth is transitory, and that our true selves will not be fully revealed until we have passed through death into eternity with God. As we more fully grasp this essential reality, we see more clearly the truth of Pope Francis’ words: “Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.” Read more »

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Clergy, laity praise new American cardinals

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Catholic News Service

Clergy and laity alike praised the naming of two new American cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI.

“This is an honor for these outstanding church leaders as well as an honor for the church in the United States,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., in a Jan. 6 statement. “As men of prayer, wisdom and dedication, they will bring many talents and graces to their new roles as advisers to the Holy Father,” said the archbishop, who is vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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