Polygamy is more of a problem in Africa than divorce and remarriage, according to a senior African Cardinal.
Cardinal Phillippe Ouédraogo from Burkina Faso admitted that in Europe, divorce and remarriage was a real concern for delegates to the Synod on the Family in Rome.
But he said that in Africa, polygamy was a much more pressing problem.
The bishops have been meeting in separate groups according to language and nationality.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, said that among German bishops there was unanimous agreement on the need to explore more deeply the pastoral concepts of justice and mercy.
One of the groups said the Church had a theology of marriage, which focused heavily on morality, but that there was no integrated theology of the family.
Cardinal Nichols, speaking at a Vatican press conference, said that listening to the Church's experience in other parts of the world was very enriching and gave the Synod Fathers a much broader perspective. He said that a good example of this was how they learnt that marriage in Africa was not between two individuals but two families; this made it a a social event in which the local community is involved. "In the UK marriages tend to be private, personal affairs," he remarked.
Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez, Archbishop of Bogotá in Colombia, said the Synod was an extremely important moment for the Catholic Church because we are "trying to listen to the voices of families, in all their forms, especially broken families."