CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope Francis to open Vatican conference on traditional marriage

By  Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service
  • November 3, 2014

VATICAN CITY - A month after closing a Synod of Bishops on the family stirred by controversy over divorce, same-sex unions and other non-marital relationships, Pope Francis will open an interreligious conference dedicated to traditional marriage.

The Vatican-sponsored gathering, on the "Complementarity of Man and Woman," will take place Nov. 17-19 and feature more than 30 speakers representing 23 countries and various Christian churches, as well as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism and Sikhism.

The conference will aim to "examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society," according to organizers.

Pope Francis will address the conference and preside over its first morning session Nov. 17, following remarks by Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The conference was an initiative of Muller, who proposed it to Pope Francis in November 2013, according to Helen Alvare, a professor at George Mason University School of Law in Virginia, who is handling press relations for the event.

The conference is officially sponsored by the doctrinal congregation, and co-sponsored by the pontifical councils for Promoting Christian Unity, for Interreligious Dialogue and for the Family. The heads of all four curia offices are scheduled to address the assembly.

Topics of lectures and videos will include "The Cradle of Life and Love: A Mother and Father for the World's Children" and "The Sacramentality of Human Love According to St. John Paul II."

Given its timing and subject matter, the conference is likely to invite comparisons with the Oct. 5-19 Synod on the family. Several conference participants have already commented publicly on the earlier event.

One of the Synod's most discussed topics was a proposal by German Cardinal Walter Kasper to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion. Muller was a leading opponent of that proposal.

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