Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia will form the basis for the catechesis sessions during the World Meeting of Families, “but we will accentuate the positive,” he said.
Controversy has surrounded footnote 351 of Chapter 8 of Amoris – which addresses the reception of the sacraments for divorced and remarried couples – and Farrell said that people within the Church can and should discuss it.
“We criticize, we object – which we rightfully should – I don't say we shouldn't do that, but I do say that we need to do a little more,” he said. “We need to not just criticize, but we need to say what our teaching is, and that's not a yes and no answer.”
For him, Amoris Laetitia is about the beauty of marriage and family life – it's also “Chapters 2,3,4,5...”
“So that's what I hope and that's what I hope we would do, not just on the question of marriage, but … the question of human life, many questions today,” he said.
In addition to Amoris Laetitia and the need to showcase the beauty of the Church’s teaching on marriage and family, Cardinal Farrell also spoke about the ongoing restructuring of his dicastery, which merged several other departments together, and preparations for World Youth Day, the Synod and the World Meeting of Families.
Please read below for excerpts of CNA's interview with Cardinal Farrell:
You've been here a little over six months now. How has it been?
It’s been a rather intense six months, it’s been a period of great learning for me because I’ve never worked in the Vatican before, so there’s a lot of things you have to learn. And I never knew too much about the dicastery or the pontifical council for the laity, for the family and for human life. I really never had any involvement whatsoever, although I was ordained a priest by Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, who at one time was the prefect of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. But it has been six months of rather listening to people and trying to understand exactly what it is that we do here, and what laity does and what family does and what human life does as a dicastery, as a department of the Holy See. So it has been a learning curve for me to understand what’s happening, and naturally the new statute of this new dicastery which brings all three departments together, is a little different than what was actually done in the past. And it’s also a question of bringing more lay people in to work here. Everybody has commented that this is the first time that Vatican law stipulates in the constitution of the dicastery, that the undersecretaries must be laypeople, and the secretary of the dicastery can in fact be a layperson. So we’re in the process of trying to identify people and inviting them to consider working here, which obviously is the first step. I hope that we will have a secretary and undersecretaries by September or October. Obviously I had to know what we were doing before we could start doing anything, and it has been quite an interesting time. At the same time this dicastery is responsible for World Youth Day, it’s responsible also for the gathering of the family, which took place two years ago in Philadelphia and next year will take place in Dublin, Ireland, and of course in between we have the synod on young people. So I would say we have enough to do.
Is there a particular strategy you guys have for merging everything into one? I imagine it’s got to be a pretty intense task…
Yes, it is a pretty intense task, but I would say we will do this gradually and we have already integrated many of the services, many of the different departments…many aspects of the merger have already taken place. It is now a question of establishing it according to the new statute, which will begin to take shape, my guess is September sometime until the following June. I would hope that it would be completed by June of next year. That would be my plan. I don’t know what God’s plan is, but that would be mine. But of course, all of this is so new to me. I was the bishop of Dallas, Texas, and nobody was more surprised about this than I was, but you just keep going.
As you mentioned, you are going into a lot of things. You have the World Youth Day, you have the World Meeting of Families, and then in between you have the synod. All of these things are sort-of connected, so is there a certain type of synergy in terms of how you are planning for these events?
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Of course. I think that everybody in this dicastery will cooperate on all three events. Some people ask me many times, why did Pope Francis decide to merge these three? Well, there is an internal logic to laity. If you think for one moment, the majority of lay people in the Catholic Church do not pertain to lay ecclesial movements, but are just ordinary Catholics who go to Church on Sundays or practice their faith. And laity live out the Christian life, normally, not everybody, but the vast majority, in marriage and the family, which brings about human life, which brings about young people, which brings about World Youth Day. So there’s an internal logic for why these three separate departments come together, and there’s a certain synergy that should exist between all events that I just mentioned. So obviously we all work in making a great effort to make these moments of evangelization. They are not just gatherings, they have a purpose, they have a reason for being, and we hope to make them even better in the future.
Pope Francis during the vigil for youth before Palm Sunday said we need to listen to youth and their contributions. What would you say is the contribution of youth, what is their mission in the Church and in society today?
Obviously Pope Francis, when he was speaking about that at Saint Mary Major, we had just had a whole week-long meeting of young people and representatives of conferences of bishops, and the vast majority here were young people, to address the question of World Youth Day in Panama, obviously, and the question of the synod. The Holy Father is very interested in hearing what young people have to say. It’s not a synod of bishops about bishops. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have to listen to anybody else, whereas this synod, there will be wide consultation and Pope Francis is determined that the voice of young people be heard. That is why Cardinal Baldisseri and officials from the synod office attended our week-long event and had hours on hours of interaction with, these are all the leaders from all over the world, there were from all over the world, there were 360 people from all over the world. The majority of the young people who were there to talk about the Church and young people, and that’s what they did, and they gathered a vast amount of information. On top of that, Pope Francis wants this survey to be widely distributed, not to the bishops of the United States or any other country in the world, but to the young people. We already know what the bishops are going to say, we already know what priests are going to say, we want to know young people are going to say. The synod is about young people. That’s why Pope Francis was so animated that night at Saint Mary Major, and that’s he insisted that they have to stand up and be heard, and they had to speak up and shouldn’t just think ‘it’ll be the same as always.’ They need to be involved. Just recently, I think on Sunday, he said that young people need to get off the couch, it’s bad for the cholesterol. They need to do something; be active, get involved…we want to make this consultation as wide as possible. It’s on the internet, anybody can subscribe, anybody can answer the questions or give comments and say what they think.
How will these contributions from the youth be incorporated into the synod, but also in World Youth Day?
They will also be included when the synod takes place before World Youth Day. Obviously somebody is going to have to analyze these hundreds of thousands of comments which we hope we will receive. Conferences of bishops will have to put them in order, but they’re not going to be interpreting them, they’re going to just be sending them to the office of the synod here in the Vatican. They have a vast staff that they will coelute and put them into the working document of the synod. The working document will then be prepared based on what young people have said, just like what we did for the synod on the family, which was a great change. In the past, every bishop had 10 minutes to say something and that was it. Now, the working document is to be built by the young people. Obviously that will be the central theme of the synod, it will also be the theme of World Youth Day and, to a certain extent, the World Meeting of Families will be the next event that takes place. It takes place in August of 2018, and October 2018 is the synod and January of 2019 is the World Youth Day. So we’ll have many sleepless nights between now and then.
I'm sure you will. Has the Vatican started to receive any of the answers to the questionnaires yet?