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Pope focuses on family before naming new cardinals

'Beauty of the family and marriage' crucial to Vatican talks

21 February, 17:50
Pope focuses on family before naming new cardinals (By Sandra Cordon) (ANSA) - Vatican City, February 21 - Issues facing today's families, from divorce and parenthood to same-sex marriage, were on the agenda Friday as Pope Francis met with cardinals from the around the world.

This week's sessions, including the two-day extraordinary consistory with cardinals that ended Friday, will culminate in a special public ceremony in St. Peter's Square on Saturday in which Francis will create 19 new cardinals.

The impact of these appointments will be far-reaching because 16 of the new cardinals are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a future conclave to chose the next pope. One of the most high-profile of the new cardinals is Pietro Parolin, who is the new secretary of state for the Vatican and a veteran of the Holy See's diplomatic corps since 1986. By drawing many clerics from Asia, Africa and Latin America to create new cardinals Francis - who is himself from Argentina - seems to be putting his own stamp on the Catholic Church hierarchy by turning primarily to the developing world.

In so doing, he has also taken another step away from the traditional Church hierarchy, consistent with the emphasis and tone of his public remarks.

Since his election in March 2013, the first pontiff from the Americas has emphasized the importance of social justice, assisting the poor and those who are struggling, living more simply, and demonstrating greater respect, tolerance and care for others.

The current council of cardinals, whose two-day session has focused on the modern family, began with a message from the pope, warning that in today's world, the family is often "despised, abused" despite the fact it is essential for the future of humanity.

Francis reminded the cardinals that the family is "essential" to the world and to God's plan for humanity. "Our reflections must keep before us the beauty of the family and marriage, the greatness of this human reality which is so simple and yet so rich, consisting of joys and hopes, of struggles and sufferings, as is the whole of life," Pope Francis said in opening the two day meeting.

The cardinals are considering family issues as they prepare for the next synod in October, a longer and more in-depth session that which will be devoted to the family. The Vatican has been asking its priests around the world for input on controversial issues ranging from same-sex marriage and surrogate motherhood to polygamy as its prepares for the extraordinary meeting on the family.

The 38-question survey, sent to national conferences of bishops all over the world, seeks input from local officials to help the Vatican as it prepares for an unusual assembly of bishops designed to develop new directions for the Church on issues of family relations.

The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization is the official title selected for the third extraordinary general assembly of the synod of bishops to be held in the Vatican from October 5 to 9.

This event will be only the third such assembly since the synod's creation in 1965. "Today, the family is looked down upon and mistreated," the pope told the cardinals.

"We are called to acknowledge how beautiful, true and good it is to start a family, to be a family today; and how indispensable the family is for the life of the world and for the future of humanity".

During Friday's extraordinary consistory session, Francis and the cardinals deviated from the agenda to issue a statement condemning "every violence in the name of religious membership" around the globe.

The statement added that the Catholic Church would "work for peace and reconciliation via inter-religious dialogue and multiple works of charity". It mentioned violence in South Sudan, Nigeria, Syria and the Central African Republic and expressed "special apprehension" about the current situation in Ukraine.

The statement given by Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi also stressed, however, that violence often described as religious in nature, especially concerning conflict between Christians and Muslims, frequently has other primary causes, including economic, political or ethnic friction.