Pope Francis addressed a meeting of some 300 Catholic bishops from around a world Sunday by forcefully asserting that marriage is an indissoluble bond between man and woman, for it is "God's dream for his beloved creation." But he said the church doesn't judge and must "seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy."
Francis said the church cannot be "swayed by passing fads or popular opinion," but he also pointed out that the church is also a mother who doesn't point fingers or judge her children, as marriages fail. Presiding over the Family in the Modern World synod at the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, he talked about the needs and ways to better minister to Catholic families experiencing separation, divorce and other problems when the church's teaching holds that marriage is forever.
His statements addressing the divisive issues confronting the orthodox and traditional meaning of marriage came shortly after the media's coverage on his meetings with Kentucky County clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for six days for refusing to issue a marriage license to a gay couple, and with a gay man during his visit to the United States in September.
According to Reuters, Francis dedicated one-third of his sermon to the topic of love between man and woman and its role in procreation.
"This is God's dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self," he said, referencing heterosexual marriage as "true meaning of the couple and of human sexuality in God's plan."
However, the Pope said the person "who falls or errs must be understood and loved."
"The Church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them, for a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock," he said, according to Reuters.
A day before the gathering, the Vatican immediately dismissed a Polish priest from his job after he came out as gay and called for changes in Catholic teachings against homosexual activity.
In its explanation of the dismissal of the gay Polish priest, the Vatican said his very public coming out was intended to put undue media pressure on the synod on gay issues, which was expected to be only a small part of the bishops' discussions, according to Associated Press.
The key topic at the synod will be how to reach out to Catholics who have divorced and remarried in civil ceremonies. They are considered by the Church to be still married to their first spouse and living in a state of sin. Some bishops want a change to the rules that bars them from receiving sacraments such as communion.
Last month, Francis made it easier and faster for Catholics to secure a marriage annulment, the most radical such reform for 250 years, and told bishops to be more welcoming to divorced couples.