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Pope Francis Challenged In Synod Showing Vatican Divisions


Now let's talk about the debate in another assembly - of Catholic bishops. They came from all over the world to a meeting called a synod in Rome.


The meeting showed a church divided over family issues. Here's NPR's Sylvia Poggioli.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: At Saturday's final media briefing, Father Thomas Rosica said this synod was unlike all previous ones. Pope Francis, he added, has put the church on a long journey.


THOMAS ROSICA: And we're not used to those kind of journeys. We were used to precooked synods with everything already done, documents all written by the time people got here. Your stories were already done. And that didn't happen this time.

POGGIOLI: By just one vote, a two-thirds majority of bishops offered some hope for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to one day receive communion again, a victory for the progressives. But that came after some nasty incidents. In a leaked letter, 13 conservative cardinals complained the synod was rigged to get predetermined results. And in interviews, some bishops vented their anxieties about the synod outcome. Father Thomas Reese, senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, had never heard prelates so publicly disrespectful of a pope.

THOMAS REESE: Never before at a synod would cardinals challenge the way that the pope had organized the synod to be run, cardinals referring to the pope as the Protestant pope, or using really derogatory language about him and where he was leading the church.

POGGIOLI: The conservatives prevailed on the other hot-button issue. a more welcoming stance for gay people. The document said the dignity of every individual must be respected, but same-sex unions cannot be recognized as marriages. It also acknowledged the legitimacy of African bishops concerns over ideological colonization. This is how Cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso described it.


PHILIPPE OUEDRAOGO: (Through interpreter) To obtain financial aid, developing countries are pressured to pass laws on abortion, gender theory, homosexuality and euthanasia.

POGGIOLI: Belgian bishop Lucas Van Looy hopes the synod experience will be embraced by the whole church.


LUCAS VAN LOOY: (Through interpreter) I would say it's the end of a church that passes judgment on people and all situations. It is a church that welcomes, that accompanies, that listens, a church that also speaks with clarity.

POGGIOLI: Exactly the kind of church Pope Francis says he wants. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.