ROME — The Vatican’s second most powerful figure said Wednesday that Pope Francis will pen a document following the recently concluded Synod of Bishops on the family, something that until now no Vatican official had confirmed.
Speaking to the ANSA news agency, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, said the pontiff will write an apostolic exhortation on the family in the upcoming months.
“[When] I don’t know, but I don’t think it will take too long,” ANSA quotes Parolin as saying. “After all, it’s best to strike while the iron’s still hot.”
As the contentious synod came to a close last week, it wasn’t clear if Francis would write his own document, perhaps drawing from the suggestions bishops presented to him in their summary. This has generally been the practice in past synods.
The bishops’ document was addressed to the pontiff and it was designed to be the result of not only the three weeks of the meeting, but the summary of a longer process that began in 2013 when Francis called on Catholics around the world to answer a questionnaire about the challenges facing families.
In their final summary, called a relatio, the bishops asked Francis to weigh in on topics raised during the synod.
“Concluding this report, we humbly ask the Holy Father that he evaluate the possibility of issuing a document on the family, so that in it the domestic church may always reflect Christ more clearly, [as] the light of the world,” the relatio stated.
According to Parolin, Francis’ apostolic exhortation “will be based in the work of the synod, as is the tradition.”
(An “apostolic exhortation” is a document from the pope that calls for the faithful to implement a particular aspect of the Church’s life and teaching. It’s not meant to teach new doctrine, but to suggest how teachings can be applied today. Francis released one in November 2013, The Joy of the Gospel.)
Speaking to journalists after the synod’s closing Mass, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, explained why a document from the pope would be helpful.
“I do think that there are enough questions – as opposed to answers – that come through the document that we would benefit by some direction from our Holy Father,” Kurtz said.
In the run-up to the synod, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster in the United Kingdom told Crux he wanted to see Francis write an apostolic exhortation called “The Joy of the Family,” a reference to “The Joy of the Gospel.”
It could be a text, Nichols said, “to set us off in a real, deeply prayerful appreciation of the grace at work in so many families. The family is the basic human experience, where we learn to be human, about our faith, what life is about.”
“There’s nothing more important than the family,” Nichols said.
Speaking to journalists at Rome’s Gregorian University after addressing participants in a conference on the 50th anniversary of a famed document from the Second Vatican Council on inter-faith relations, Parolin also referred to Francis’ upcoming Nov. 25-30 trip to Africa that will take him to Kenya, Uganda, and Central African Republic.
The visit to the Central African Republic will mark the first time a pope travels to an active war zone, but Pope Francis is not afraid, Parolin said.
“This is why he goes everywhere,” he said, adding that Francis finds courage “in his faith and his love for people.”
Parolin will also make the trip as part of the pope’s entourage, and he largely played down any security concerns.
“I believe there’s a concern, but I imagine that if the pope is going, the conditions are set for the pope to be able to go,” he said. “So these phenomena are under control, at least for the duration of the pope’s visit.”