Questions around sex, marriage and the family are some of the most fraught moral issues for Catholics, and have proved a lightning rod for debate and division within and outside the church for decades.
On Sunday more than people — the world's Catholic bishops and theological experts, representatives of religious orders such Cardinal kasper homosexuality in japan the Franciscans, the heads of curial offices and Pope Francis himself — will meet at the Vatican to discuss precisely these issues. Pope Francis likes open discussion and debate within the Catholic Church, and is certain to get a giant serve of both at this synod about the family.
Synods are periodical meetings of bishops and others to discuss major issues concerning the church, such as evangelisation and justice, catechesis and the word of God.
In the weeks before the synod there has been a heated debate on whether divorced and remarried Catholics can be given the eucharist. But the synod is not just about the divorced and remarried.
It is about the pressures all families face in contemporary society and how, in these circumstances, Catholics can best conduct their marriages. Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp recently revealed that many bishops who were uneasy about how the Humanae Vitae decision was reached and applied remained silent, but he is among those now prepared to speak out. The findings of Germany, Japan, Ireland, Malta and the Netherlands
Cardinal kasper homosexuality in japan been made known and indicate a deep fracture between teachings and practice.
In Germany, most Catholics who responded do not accept the church's teaching on premarital sex, cohabitation before marriage, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage and opposition to artificial birth control. They favour legal recognition of same-sex partnerships.
The reactions of Africa, the continent where Catholicism is growing most swiftly, have not been published, but it is expected they will more in line with church teaching. Cardinal kasper homosexuality in japan already appear to be divisions among cardinals about the right direction for the church to take. Pope Francis has supported the German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who says there are great expectations for a new, more merciful approach to family and sexual matters, such as allowing Catholics who remarry after divorce to receive the eucharist, even if the divorced spouse is still living.
However, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, head of the Vatican doctrinal office, called Cardinal Kasper "radically mistaken" to suggest Catholic doctrine is at odds with mercy. When the former pope held Cardinal Muller's present position, he at least admitted the need for spiritual aid for divorced Catholics, without, however, finding new instruments for this.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German Bishops Conference, has reportedly said he is going to the synod with the bishops' support for Cardinal Kasper.
But 10 cardinals have taken anti-Kasper stands.
Cardinal Muller recently published his second book this year on the theme. Cardinal George Pell has provided the preface for yet another criticising Cardinal Kasper.
Cardinal kasper homosexuality in japan German cardinal along with two Italians, a Spaniard, an American and a Canadian have contributed to a third book, which also has contributions from biblical experts who dispute the biblical basis of Cardinal Kasper's arguments. The cardinals say they are merely contributing to the synod debate, but some of those opposed to Cardinal Kasper have misgivings about Pope Francis as one who entrances the media but is sloppy about doctrine, which they consider the unforgivable sin for a pope.
On the eve of the synod he indicated the way he wants to go by forming a commission to simplify procedures for church annulments of marriages, and he also married in St Peter's some couples already with children or living together. It would be ironic if Pope Francis, in following up the reformist ambitions of the Vatican Council, found the synod representatives were not prepared to follow him.
It will be a test of how much influence he has, but also a means of testing the waters.