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Pope appeals for prayers in letter to families

October synod to reassess family role in Church life

25 February, 19:02
Pope appeals for prayers in letter to families (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Vatican City, February 25 - Pope Francis on Tuesday urged Catholics to pray for Church officials and lay members gearing to frame new responses for the needs and concerns of families to put to a special synod of bishops in the autumn.

In an open letter, the pope stressed the October synod would be dedicated in a special way to families, to their "vocation and mission in the Church and in society; to the challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the Church".

He underscored that the meeting will involve "all the people of God" including bishops, priests, and lay faithful of the particular Churches of the entire world, all of whom he adds, are "actively participating in preparations for the meeting through practical suggestions and the crucial support of prayer".

The pope also asked for the prayers of families for the World Meeting of Families which is due to take place in Philadelphia in September 2015. He voiced the hope that through these vital prayers for both events, the Church will undertake "a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel". Francis said it was "Jesus himself" who illuminates the path of families in their daily lives and sustains everyone in their journey.

"The support of prayers," the pontiff said, was "especially significant and more necessary than ever" to the success of the process.

"Dear families, your prayers for the synod of bishops will be a precious treasure which enriches the Church," the pope wrote. "I thank you, and I ask you to pray also for me, so that I may serve the People of God in truth and in love". In October, the extraordinary synod of bishops will meet to discuss the theme of pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization. During an extraordinary meeting last week of the Council of Cardinals on the topic of the family, Francis said then that the family is "essential" to the world and to God's plan for humanity.

The council was considering family issues as it prepares for the October synod.

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 the unusual assembly of bishops designed to develop new directions for the Church on issues of family relations.

Earlier, the pope said children are starving in refugee camps swollen by wars while arms traffickers are partying in lavish surroundings.

Francis urged Christians not to "get used" to the scandal of war in a homily at Vatican hostel St Martha's House, the humble hostel he lives in, eschewing the grand papal apartments.