Vatican City, Oct 6 (IANS/AKI) Pope Francis said Catholics should air their differences on controversial issues, while opening the highly anticipated meeting of Catholic church leaders since it was last held half a century ago.
“As I said, the synod is not a parliament where in order to reach a consensus or a common accord we resort to negotiation, pacts or compromise,” Pope Francis said.
He urged delegates at the synod to “courageously engage in pharresia” — open, frank debate — and warned them against political bargaining.
He was addressing around 270 church leaders gathered at the Vatican for the three-week summit dominated by the issues of divorce and homosexuality.
The most divisive issue at the meeting is whether to drop a longstanding ban on communion for divorcees who remarry.
Several cardinals on both sides of the debate have warned that the Catholic church risks a schism over the controversy.
Other flashpoint issues include treatment of gay Catholics, and how to approach couples who live together without being married.
Observers say the meeting is not likely to change Catholic doctrine on the family but will focus instead on how the Church’s teachings can be adapted to modern lifestyles.
The run-up to the summit was dominated by a row over a Catholic priest who was dismissed from his post at the Vatican after he publicly announced on Saturday that he was in a gay relationship.
A Vatican spokesman called Polish-born Krysztof Charasma’s coming out a “very serious and irresponsible” move because it placed synod participants under “undue media pressure”.
Charasma, who held a post in the Vatican’s office in charge of guarding Roman Catholic doctrine, in an interview said he was a homosexual and was living with another man.
The issue of homosexuality was also highlighted during the Pope’s trip to the US last month, where he held a private meeting with a gay student of his and his boyfriend at the Vatican mission in Washington.
After his election in 2013, Pope Francis reaffirmed the Catholic church’s position that homosexual acts were sinful, but said homosexual orientation was not.
“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” he said.