Cardinal Vincent Nichols has instructed priests not to regard the forthcoming Synod on the Family as a “battle”, warning that hostilities can cause “collateral damage”.
His comments, in his homily for Tuesday’s Chrism Mass at Westminster Cathedral, come a week after he rebuked the almost 500 priests in England and Wales for going to the press with a letter saying they would resist any change to church teaching at the Synod.
In his homily the cardinal said: “It is wrong, in my view, to think or speak of this Synod as a battle, a battle between contesting sides.”
“Battles have winners and losers,” he continued. “And often ‘collateral damage’ is the most tragic consequence of hostilities.”
The Chrism Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Emeritus Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Auxiliary Bishops John Sherrington and Nicholas Hudson and attended by more than 300 priests, along with deacons, seminarians and parishioners from across the diocese.
The growing debate around the Synod has exposed deep divisions in the Church nationally and internationally over issues around divorce and remarriage.
In Lancaster Bishop Michael Campbell has refused to meet with diocesan members of the pro-reform group ACTA (A Call to Action), which he called “self-styled” and “a small but vocal interest or lobby group”. He wrote on his blog on Sunday that the group had no recognition or approval by the Catholic Church in his diocese. In response the organisation’s national chairwoman issued statement saying that she believed her group’s stance was “what Pope Francis wants”.
Speaking on BBC Radio Lancashire, Alex Walker of ACTA said Pope Francis wanted the Synod to get the Church to catch up with the modern face of the family, whose issues included gay marriage as well as divorce and remarriage.