Synod on the Family: Will Pope Francis tear up the Church's rule book on Friday?

Pope Francis led the Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's square on Easter MondayReuters

Pope Francis said after last October's Synod on the Family that he would write a special 'exhortation' or reflection on it for the benefit of Catholics everywhere. It's due out on Friday and has been keenly anticipated.

I know about this. He's going to say divorce and gay marriage are fine.

He is certainly not.

But I thought people who don't go to church love him because he doesn't do all that judging stuff?

Pope Francis has certainly brought a different tone to the Church and is far less interested in rules and regulations than his predecessors. But he is the Pope, not a Guardian columnist. Whatever he comes up with is going to be pretty conservative.

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Well, I suppose he knows what he's doing.

He's the Pope, the clue's in the name.

The synod was a bit controversial, wasn't it?

Yes. There were two of them actually, an Extraordinary Synod in 2014 and another the following October, the Ordinary Synod. No, I don't know why they were called that. They involved around 190 bishops from all over the world, who did get into a bit of a tangle over homosexuality and divorce – that's what the media were interested in, anyway. But they also talked about things like marriage preparation, pornography and domestic violence. The synod's theme was "the vocation and mission of the family in the church and the modern world".

So what's the Pope going to say on Friday?

His statement is called Amoris Laetitia, 'The Joy of Love'. It will be around 200 pages long and will summarise what the synod said, with Francis' reflections on it. He is a great believer in the family and sees the need to support it particularly in the modern world. According to Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, the document is a "hymn to love, a love that wants to take care of the welfare of the young, to be close to wounded families to give them strength, a love that wants to be close to children as well as to all mankind in need".

That all sounds very commendable.

Indeed. But while the Pope is personally warm, pastoral and caring, he doesn't have the authority to change Church teaching on things like divorce and remarriage or homosexuality – and it shouldn't be assumed he would if he could, either. On past experience, Friday's document will irritate conservatives because it gives too much away and liberals because it doesn't give enough.

Who'd be a Pope, eh?

Who, indeed?

Follow Mark Woods on Twitter: @RevMarkWoods

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