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Pope Francis closes family issues synod with warning against exclusion

Pope Francis used the story of Jesus and a blind man named Bartimaeus as an analogy warning church elders against dismissing broad swaths of society.

By Fred Lambert
Pope Francis closes family issues synod with warning against exclusion
Pope Francis ended a three-week synod on family issues by delivering a speech Sunday in which he used the story of Jesus and Bartimaeus as an analogy warning church elders against exclusion of those deserving of God's grace. Photo by Stefano Spaziani/UPI | License Photo

VATICAN CITY, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- Pope Francis closed a synod about family issues on Sunday by delivering a homily warning church elders against dismissing large portions of society.

Francis delivered the speech during mass at St. Peter's Basilica at the end of the three-week summit, which featured discussion between up to 300 clergy members and some lay people regarding the treatment of gay Catholics as well as divorcees and people living together out of wedlock.

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Francis used the biblical story of a run-in between Jesus and a blind man named Bartimaeus as an analogy. As Jesus and his disciples left Jericho for Jerusalem, Francis said, Jesus was the only one among his entourage who stopped to address the blind man's cries.

"None of the disciples stopped, as Jesus did," Vatican Radio quoted Francis as saying. "They continued to walk, going on as if nothing were happening. If Bartimaeus was blind, they were deaf: His problem was not their problem."

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Francis said this could be a "danger for us: in the face of constant problems, it is better to move on, instead of letting ourselves be bothered. In this way, just like the disciples, we are with Jesus but we do not think like him. We are in his group, but our hearts are not open."

The Washington Post reports Francis delivered the speech in what appeared at times to be a "scolding tone."

Priests and bishops at the synod -- considered the most significant in the 50 years after the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965, which addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world -- spoke on family issues normally considered taboo in the church.

The Washington Post reported Francis acknowledged disagreement in the 94 recommendations passed to him by the participants of the synod, quoting him as saying opinions were expressed freely and "at times, unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning ways."

Many priests and bishops reportedly expressed an open attitude toward divorced and unmarried couples but stopped short of endorsing actual changes in church policy, and while the document recognized the "dignity" of gays and lesbians, it did not endorse the spiritual value of same-sex unions.

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Earlier this month, as the synod was about to begin, Krzysztof Charamsa, a Poland-born Vatican priest, announced he was gay and called on the church to recognize "homosexual love" as "a kind of family love" that "must be nourished by the church."

Charamsa said the Catholic Church is "already behind in tackling the issue" and that gay believers should not have to wait another 50 years.

In the past, Francis has reaffirmed the church's stance that homosexual acts are sinful but has been quoted as saying "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?"

During his Sunday homily, Francis said a "faith that does not know how to root itself in the life of people remains arid and, rather than oases, creates other deserts."

The Washington Post quoted Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, Belgium, as saying "bad feelings came up" at the synod when he brought up the issue of homosexuality.

"That is a point for next time," he said. "Better to leave it for later than discuss it in a hot and bad atmosphere."

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