Pope Francis to Hold Meeting on Gay Marriage
Pope Francis has been lauded over the last year for his comments on same-sex relationships (i.e.: his infamous: "who am I to judge?" quote), being named Person of the Year by the Advocate and Time magazine.
Activists may be congratulating the pontiff again as it was reported Wednesday that he's called for a Vatican meeting to debate the Catholic Church's stance on gay marriage, contraception and divorce.
The Los Angeles Times reports the religious meeting, or synod, will take place this October, under Pope Francis' orders, where top Catholic Church officials plan to discuss some of the Church's most controversial issues: same-sex relations, divorce and contraception.
"It is telling the pope and the Vatican what they already know. But it's what the Vatican in the past has not wanted to hear," author and Vatican expert John Thavis told the newspaper. "It's strategic, but it's also a genuine effort to find out what the voice of the church really is on this. It's very much Pope Francis who wants less of a top-down model - the bishops preaching the rules and doctrine down to the faithful - and more of a dialogue."
The pope has asked every diocese in the world to survey local attitudes on families and relationships and report their results to the Vatican in the fall. Those results will be calculated and examined behind closed doors.
Though the pope's announcement of a meeting dealing with hot button social issues may raise hopes for some, it is unlikely there will be any sweeping changes. Just last month Francis, the only pope to come from a country that has legalized gay marriage (Argentina), praised heterosexual marriage and has never come out fully for same-sex marriage.
"When a man and a woman celebrate the sacrament of marriage, God is reflected in them," Pope Francis told about 45,000 pilgrims who traveled to St. Peter's Square to hear him speak at his general audience speech at the Vatican in April. "As 'one flesh', they become living icons of God's love in our world, building up the Church in unity and fidelity. The image of God is the married couple -- not just the man, not just the woman, but both."
The "extraordinary" synod in October is the first of a two-phase process. Bishops will discuss their findings this fall and will create new guidelines at an "ordinary" synod next year, the L.A. Times notes.
"The pope is the pope, and I think we can expect that even more conservative bishops will listen to what he says," Thavis told the newspaper. "In the end, it comes down to a policy that could be changed without causing people to leave the church or causing people to slam the door on the way out of the synod."