Love and Marriage, Synod and Surveys - 1st February 2015

Last October Pope Francis convened an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation”. Coverage of this Synod in the secular press focussed on the contentious issue of communion for the divorced and remarried, although the Synod discussions covered a much broader range of topics than this.

A follow-up, larger gathering will be held later this year. The world Synod of Bishops will meet at the Vatican from 4th to 25th October. The theme is “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World”. This next stage in the process aims to extend the work of the previous Synod rather than revisit what has already been discussed. Brisbane’s Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Bishop Eugene Hurley of Darwin will be the Australian Bishops Conference representatives on this occasion.

In the lead-up to the Extraordinary Synod last year, around 750 people from across the Brisbane Archdiocese contributed feedback via an online survey. Once again Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops are seeking responses to a survey consisting of 30 questions as part of the process of preparing for the 2015 Synod. Participating in this questionnaire is a way to take an active role in shaping how we share the Gospel with married people and families and respond to the needs of those around us.

The survey may be done online or downloaded as a Word document and a hard copy response completed. Both forms can be accessed at the website It will take approximately 15 to 30 minutes to complete the survey. It is not necessary to answer all of the questions and participants may choose to focus on questions relating to a particular area of interest or expertise.

Unfortunately the time frame for the survey is brief, with responses required by Tuesday February 10. This a logistical necessity in order for the Vatican receive submissions from around the globe by around early March. Nonetheless the opportunity remains for everyone to contribute valuable feedback to the ongoing Synod journey.

In light of the extraordinary Synod on marriage and the family in 2014 and ordinary Synod happening this year, I will devote the next few “Liturgy Lines” columns to the issue of marriage, focussing on the marriage ceremony.

No other human relationship requires so total a commitment between two people as does marriage.   Once married, everything each partner does is done with the other in mind. Married people do not lose their individual identities, but their identity is enriched by sharing life with their spouse. Marriage holds out to couples the extraordinary challenge of becoming so completely united that everything they do is geared towards strengthening and deepening their union.

Christian marriage has the additional profound dimension of immersing a couple into the mystery of Christ’s saving love which touches and transforms their lives. Such a marriage is a covenant relationship.

The Catholic Church views marriage as a sacrament, a sign of the union between Christ and the Church. The Catholic Rite of Marriage celebrates liturgically the distinctive way in which Christian couples experience Christ’s saving love.  The ceremony speaks of love, permanent commitment, fidelity, openness to children, and perseverance in good times and bad, qualities which make marriage a unique relationship.

Elizabeth Harrington