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Vatican Synod Ends

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Vatican Synod Ends

Religion

Vatican Synod Ends

Vatican Synod Ends

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A three-week gathering of Catholic prelates from around the globe ends after what many say was the most contentious gathering of archbishops in decades.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Inside the Vatican City, a contentious bishops meeting has come to a close. The bishops were hashing out big issues like how the church deals with divorce and gay marriage. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli says progressives and conservatives scored points.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Church doctrine says divorced and civilly remarried Catholics commit adultery and cannot receive communion. But after three weeks of divisive debate, 270 bishops endorsed Pope Francis' call for a more merciful church. For the first time, they recommended that a priest provide a divorced and remarried Catholic spiritual consultation that could, on a case-by-case basis, lead to integration into the church.

THOMAS REESE: The fact that the word communion is not mentioned, does that mean it's OK? It's not excluded, but it's not included either.

POGGIOLI: Father Thomas Reese is senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter.

REESE: I think the bishops have left the question open so that the pope can go where he wants with this.

POGGIOLI: German Cardinal Reinhard Marx is widely believed to have been the consensus maker. Last week, he told reporters the church must reach out to Catholics who fail to always uphold the church's teachings and ask for help.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

REINHARD MARX: Will you stay to us when we fail? And we have to say, oh, yes, we stay also to you when you fail.

POGGIOLI: Many bishops had urged a more welcoming stance toward homosexuals. While the church calls for respect for all individuals, it holds the homosexual act what it calls intrinsically disordered. Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge had said such language is alienating.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARK COLERIDGE: Can we find a way of saying the same thing that, in fact, is positive, less alienating, less excluding and more accessible to many, if not most, people.

POGGIOLI: The final document said same-sex unions cannot be recognized as marriages, and the language issue was avoided due to opposition by African bishops. Ghanaian Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle acknowledged that homosexuality is a taboo topic in many African societies.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHARLES PALMER-BUCKLE: Attitudes in Africa towards people who are different has been something that has been there for so long. Give the countries time to deal with the issues from their own cultural perspective. Be patient with Africa. We're growing.

POGGIOLI: In his closing speech, Pope Francis took a swipe at conservatives, saying the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

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