Pope insists 'marriage is bond for man and woman'
Pope Francis defended marriage as "an indissoluble bond between a man and a woman" yesterday as he opened a landmark Catholic synod on the family, hours after the Vatican sacked a senior priest who came out as gay.
In a solemn mass held in St Peter's Basilica, the Pope set a largely merciful tone by urging religious leaders to do more to "seek out and care for" marginalised believers, but reaffirmed Catholic opposition to gay marriage.
The opening of the synod has been overshadowed by Saturday's announcement by Polish-born priest and Vatican theologian Krzysztof Charamsa that he was in a gay relationship and was prepared to become an advocate "for all sexual minorities and their families who have suffered in silence".
"I'm out of the closet and I'm very happy about that," said the 43-year-old priest, standing next to his partner.
The Vatican reacted furiously, calling the priest's announcement a "serious and irresponsible" decision timed to put undue media pressure and tension on the synod assembly.
Vatican officials said Monsignor Charamsa would be swiftly removed from his Vatican post as a theologian at the Pontifical universities and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body responsible for promoting and defending the doctrine of the Catholic Church.
The clash between Vatican officials and a high-ranking clergy member on the eve of the synod has exposed growing fissures in the Church on social issues that have divided reformists and conservatives.
Despite the cloud of controversy, Pope Francis yesterday did not hesitate to address some of the thorniest issues facing nearly 300 religious leaders at the assembly in Rome.
The Argentine pontiff urged more compassion and mercy toward Catholics who feel marginalised by doctrine that is so often in conflict with how millions of believers live.
At a time when the number of people who feel alone is increasing, the Church must do more protect the wounded "and not close the door to them", he said. "The Church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them," Pope Francis added.
But he also dedicated one third of his homily to the topic of love between man and woman and its role in procreation. "This is God's dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self," he said.
A myriad of difficult family matters are expected to be debated over the next three weeks, including how to minister to divorced and remarried Catholics who want to take communion.