On the Road Together – Developing Pastoral Plans

22 October 2015, by Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
221015bBishop Tarabay greeting Pope Francis during a break at the Synod on the Family.

I am currently in Rome, participating in the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “the vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world” and I am pleased to share with you some aspects of this experience so far.  

Last Wednesday, I had the chance to deliver my intervention at Synod. I spoke about the sanctity of marriage and the challenge of same-sex marriage, referring to points 130-132 of the Instrumentum Laboris. In my address, I underlined three main points being: the consequences of redefining marriage, the need to develop pastoral and spiritual plans for people with same sex attraction, and our call to work together as members of the mystical body of Christ to protect the family from all challenges especially that of a change to the definition of marriage. 

Interventions are limited to three minutes only or the microphones are switched off. I am pleased to say that I stayed within the time limits and successfully finished my address.

I have been in Rome for the last couple of weeks and the days are flying by with our general assemblies and the small groups discussing the working document of the Synod.

221015aBishop Tarabay prepares to deliver his three minute intervention during the Synod in Paul Vi Hall, Rome.

It is not my first trip in Rome, having lived here for four years as a student priest whilst completing my postgraduate studies in Moral Theology and Bioethics. However, this time is different. It is my first time participating in a Synod of the Catholic Church as one of 270 Fathers of the Synod. Elected by the Maronite Synod of Bishops to represent the Maronite Antiochian Church in the expansion, I feel humbled by the responsibility and pray that I am a good ambassador of the Maronite Church and my beloved Maronite Eparchy of Australia.

I would like to share three observations from my experience so far:

  1. It is truly amazing to witness at this Synod the universality of the Catholic Church and to hear the experiences of Catholics from every continent and region. I have spoken to Bishops, Patriarchs, Cardinals and lay people from all over the world. And every person I meet feels like a member of my wider family. The Holy Spirit is truly at work here reminding us that our main aim is the family in today’s world. There is no doubt that the approachable and friendly nature of Pope Francis has added a different flavour to this Synod and enriched it even further.
  2. The presence of representatives and experts of other churches, especially the Eastern Orthodox Church, have broadened the horizon of this Synod and given it an ecumenical dimension. The concern for the family and its well-being is one we share with all the Churches.
  3. We are now in the last week of the journey of this Synod with more than 240 speakers to date. Many of the interventions were dynamic and well-prepared. However, some others did seem like they were repetitive giving the impression that there is a closed cycle which is proving hard to break in order to move forward with a new language and a fresh pastoral vision for the challenges facing the family today.

With few more days to go, I humbly ask that you send many prayers our way, to the Vatican. They are always needed!

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