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Final report of Roman Catholic extraordinary synod on the family removes talk of ‘welcoming’ gay people

Pope Francis arrives for the last day of the synod in the Vatican on Saturday. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pope Francis arrives for the last day of the synod in the Vatican on Saturday. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pope Francis appeared on Saturday night to have lost out to powerful conservatives in the Roman Catholic church after bishops scrapped language that had been hailed as a historic warming of attitudes towards gay people.

In the final report of an extraordinary synod on the family which has exposed deep divides in the church hierarchy, there is no mention – as there had been in a draft version – of the “gifts and qualities” gay people can offer. Nor is there any recognition of the “precious support” same-sex partners can give each other.

A paragraph entitled “pastoral attention to people of homosexual orientation” – itself a distinctly cooler tone than “welcoming homosexual persons” – refers to church teaching, saying there can be “not even a remote” comparison between gay unions and heterosexual marriage.

“Nevertheless,” it adds, “men and women of homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity.” They should not suffer from discrimination, it adds. But the shift in tone is clear. And, in a potentially stark sign of the discomfort provoked among many bishop, even this watered-down passage failed to pass the two-thirds majority needed for it to be approved.

One hundred and eighteen bishops voted for the text and 62 against. A Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said the voting numbers had been released at the behest of Francis, who wanted the process to be transparent.

Because the names of the bishops were not released, however, it was unclear whether the paragraph’s failure to pass was due to a protest vote by progressive bishops who had wanted to keep more of the original wording.

At any rate, in a speech to the bishops which received a four-minute standing ovation, Francis showed no sign of disappointment, insisting that disagreement and debate was an intrinsic part of the synod process. “Personally I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn’t been these … animated discussions … if everyone had agreed with one another or had kept silent in a false and acquiescent peace,” he said.

It was the synod’s other highly controversial subject – considering whether Catholics who have divorced and remarried should be allowed to take holy communion – that included the only other sections to fail to muster the necessary two-thirds majority. Walter Kasper, a German cardinal known in media circles as “the pope’s theologian” because of his closeness to Francis, has been the key backer of a move to allow more people access to the sacraments. But, in an indication of how far his proposal was from gaining a consensus among his global peers, the sections dealing with the thorny issue were guarded and merely noted that there was a clear clash of views. “The question will be further explored,” said the report.

Thomas Rosica, Lombardi’s English language assistant, said the sections without two-thirds majorities had not been “completely rejected”. He stressed that it was “not a magisterial document” but “a work in progress” that provided the basis for another synod next autumn.

Written by: LIZZY DAVIES, continue at THE GUARDIAN

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