VATICAN CITY - If the Catholic Church did more to recognize and promote women it could help their status across society, said the Synod of Bishops on the Family.

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VATICAN CITY - The first task of the Church “is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim the mercy of God,” Pope Francis said in a blunt address to delegates at the Synod of Bishops on the Family.

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VATICAN CITY - A momentous and divided gathering of global bishops ended Oct. 24 by endorsing ways that could lead to greater participation by divorced and remarried Catholics — a major source of friction here — while the 270 bishops declined to take up the even more controversial issue of how and whether to be more welcoming to gays.

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Sunday 25 Oct. Lines of faithful spiraled around St. Peter's Square from early on Sunday awaiting their chance to enter St. Peter’s Basilica for the closing Mass of the Synod on the Family. The Mass, presided over by Pope Francis, marked the end of the second gathering of the Synod of Bishops to discuss "The Mission and Vocation of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World."

Published in Reflections

Pope Francis delivered the homily at Mass being offered on Sunday morning, the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, to mark the close of the XIV Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, who have been gathered in Rome for the past three weeks to reflect on and discuss the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.

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VATICAN CITY - Several hours before the final report of the Synod of Bishops was put to a vote, two U.S. bishops said that what is new is not the church's message, but the synod's emphasis and attitude toward the role of the family in the modern world.

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VATICAN CITY - The first task of the Catholic Church "is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim the mercy of God," Pope Francis told members of the Synod of Bishops on the family.

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VATICAN CITY - While not specifically mentioning the controversial proposal of a path toward full reconciliation and Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, members of the Synod of Bishops on the family handed Pope Francis a report emphasizing an obligation to recognize that not all Catholics in such a situation bear the same amount of blame.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis announced he is establishing a new office for laity, family and life, which combines the responsibilities of two pontifical councils.

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VATICAN CITY - The rows of seats in the Synod hall, where Catholic bishops are meeting to discuss family issues, are filled with bishops and cardinals — all male. To find any women, look to the back of the room.

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VATICAN CITY - After nearly three weeks of intense discussion and debate, the Synod of Bishop's final document on the family was not expected to have any hard-hitting answers, a member of the drafting commission said.

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VATICAN CITY - Two of the 13 final small-group reports of the Synod of Bishops for the family contained apologies: one for ways in which a lack of pastoral care may have contributed to the breakdown of marriages and one for "harsh and merciless" attitudes toward unwed mothers and their children, the divorced and homosexuals.

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VATICAN CITY - Observers told the Synod of Bishops on the Family to discourage Christian women from marrying Muslim men, urge priests not to tell women to return to abusive husbands, share the truth of Church teaching about marriage and embrace single mothers who are alienated from the Church.

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ROME - The eight American bishops taking part in the Synod on family life stay at a huge seminary built high on a hill overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica and the rest of the Eternal City. It’s a lovely place with spacious apartments for each bishop and any amenity they might need.

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For Fr. Gilles Routhier, one of the world’s leading historians of the Second Vatican Council, watching the Synod unfold in Rome is more exciting than any Game 7 in any sport you care to name.

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