"The purpose of the synod is to ... develop pastoral practices that reach out to Catholics who have not felt welcomed because they do not entirely conform to current teaching."
Within weeks, the Vatican said in a statement Thursday, bishops' conferences around the world will be receiving preparatory documents for the 2015 synod.
I loved the banner that Catholic Church Reform International carried into St. Peter's Square: "Families must have vote in family synods." A great expression of obvious logic.
That banner hits the nail on the head on two scores: First, it's a bit ridiculous to have a synod on the family when only celibate prelates can engage in formal discussion and vote. Second, it underlines our need for democratic forms of decision-making in the church.
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."
The prelate responsible for shepherding the process said one thing is clear: The coming days will see an "opportunity to deal with existential issues."
Excitement and anticipation for this synod have been high, partly because of a survey the Vatican sent to the world's bishops last year.
Among the nonvoting members of 38 observers and 16 experts appointed by the pope, the majority are laymen and laywomen, including 14 married couples.
The document says the faithful's struggles in following Catholic teachings stem mainly from ineffective education and the pervasive effect of the culture.
Simply Spirit: This survey provided an opportunity for Catholics from anywhere in the U.S. to give feedback, not only those in the 72 U.S. dioceses that offered online surveys.
Three months after he gave 19 new cardinals their red hats, Pope Francis gave new responsibilities to the 16 who are under the age of 80.