One theme said to be included in the synod: how the prelates use labels that "are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to the church."
The separation of married couples is a huge issue in the Philippines and other parts of Asia, not because of divorce but because poverty pushes couples to separate in search of jobs abroad, said Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila.
While he hopes the pastoral care of divorced and civilly remarried couples is debated openly and with good will, he said he also hopes members of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops give appropriate consideration to the impact of poverty and migration on families and to a host of other issues that help or hinder family life.
"The church constantly faces the tension of upholding the truth while expressing compassion and mercy. Families face this tension all the time."
Extremist groups in the Middle East, including the Islamic State, must be stopped with sanctioned military force and through dialogue, a Vatican statement said.
"One cannot be silent, nor [can] the international community remain inactive, in the face of the massacre of persons," said the statement issued Saturday at the end of a three-day Vatican summit on the plight of Christians in the Middle East.
"The participants at the meeting reaffirmed that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor, always in accordance with international law," it said.
Synod on the family: Pope Francis told the prelates they should speak without fear of upsetting him or limiting discussions to things he would want to hear.
Synod on the family: "Bad shepherds lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others," said Pope Francis, opening the Synod of Bishops.
The highest ranking U.S. bishop at the Vatican says this month's Synod of Bishops on the family should mark the end of a high-level debate over whether to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.
"The matter really has to be clarified at this point so that this doesn't continue," Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, told Catholic News Service on Wednesday. "For this to go on for another year, it can only do harm."
The Vatican spokesman says his daily briefings will give "an effective feeling of what has happened in the room in the diverse languages with the diverse fathers."
Guardian angels are not the stuff of fantasy; they are really present as wise travel companions helping people navigate life's journey, Pope Francis said.
Don't ignore the inner voice that says, "Well, you should do this." "That's not right." "Watch out!" the pope said in a morning homily Thursday, the feast of the Guardian Angels.
"It's the voice of our travel companion. Be confident that they will take us through to the end of our lives with their advice, and that's why (people should) listen to their voice, don't rebel," he said in remarks reported by Vatican Radio.
Everyone has a special gift to offer the whole church, just make sure it is used to serve everyone and not to puff up one's own pride or to create division, Pope Francis said.
"It is a gift that God has given to someone not because he or she is a better person than someone else or because she or he deserves it," the pope said Wednesday at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.