The Pope will speak "authoritatively" from the "tradition" of the Catholic Church at the end of the Synod on the Family, he pledged today.
Addressing the 270 archbishops and cardinals entering the third week of meetings in the deeply divided Synod in Rome, Pope Francis said the bishops must not be swayed by shifting public opinion. He made clear that what he says at the end will not be his own personal opinion but will be "in conformity" with Gospel and tradition.
His words indicate that there will be no change in doctrine at the Synod, where conservative bishops are fighting to resist any softening of traditional teaching on issues such as marriage after divorce, contraception and homosexuality. Any change that does occur is likely to be in pastoral practise only and to be limited in the way it can be applied.
Pope Francis, speaking about the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod, said: "The synodal process culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, called upon to speak authoritatively as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, not on the basis of his personal beliefs, but as the supreme witness of the faith of the whole Church, the guarantor of the Church's conformity with and obedience to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ and the tradition of the Church."
He spoke as further evidence of divisions emerged, with contrasting views being published from two prominent American archbishops.
Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput wrote in The Wall Street Journal warning that even if there is no change in teaching, any change in practice will inevitably affect belief. He said the possibility of formal change in church teachings on sexuality, marriage and the family is implausible, but this is not the problem.
"What is at issue is the application of church teaching. In the case of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, that means whether they should be admitted to Communion, under what conditions, and who should decide those conditions—the local bishop, bishops' conferences or Rome?
"Many bishops feel that the last thing the church needs is fragmentation of practice on a matter of substance."
Meanwhile, Archbishop Blasé Cupich of Chicago said at a Vatican press conferenceon the Synod that divorced and civilly remarried couples could be permitted to receive the sacraments, if they have "come to a decision" to do so "in good conscience". He also said: "In Chicago I visit regularly with people who feel marginalised: the elderly, the divorced and remarried, gay and lesbian individuals and also couples. I think that we really need to get to know what their life is like if we're going to accompany them."