The deeper synod question: How should church relate to the wider world

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October 22, 2015

People hold candles during a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 18. Members of the Synod of Bishops on the family don't agree on church vision and its primary attitude to the world. (CNS photo/Francis R. Malaise, EPA) See VATICAN-LETTER-CHURCH Oct. 22, 2015.

People hold candles during a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 18. Members of the Synod of Bishops on the family don’t agree on church vision and its primary attitude to the world. (CNS photo/Francis R. Malaise, EPA)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Members of the Synod of Bishops on the family agree that Catholic families are the beating heart and busy hands of the church, but the tensions in the synod hall demonstrate that what they don’t agree on is a vision of the church and its primary attitude to the world.

As the Catholic Church marked the 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council — the last session was held Sept. 14-Dec. 8, 1965 — debates within the synod indicated that reflections on the council have shifted from differences over the meaning of individual council documents and moved on to its general vision of the structure of the church and the relationship of the church to the world.

“The discussion is about the future of the church,” German Cardinal Reinhard Marx told a group of reporters Oct. 20. Some synod members seem to view the church as “a castle to be defended, surrounded by enemies. That I can’t understand,” he said. “The church is a sacrament in the midst of people,” reaching out, challenging, bringing healing.

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