Vatican hosts interreligious conference on traditional marriage

By Madeline Crocenzi
Student Writer

The Vatican recently sponsored a three-day interreligious ceremony discussing traditional marriage and family.

Pope Francis opened the “Complementarity of Man and Woman” conference on November 17. The Christian Post says the conference included over thirty speakers from twenty-three countries. The speakers represented a variety of religious backgrounds including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism.

Some of the notable speakers were Reverend Rick Warren, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, and president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention Russell D. Moore.

The Catholic News Service says the conference was sponsored by the doctrinal congregation, and co-sponsored by the pontifical councils for Promoting Christian Unity for Interreligious Dialogue and for the Family.

The conference covered topics such as “The Cradle of Life and Love: A Mother and Father for the World’s Children” and “The Sacramentality of Human Love According to St. John Paul II.”

Although conference organizers say the event was scheduled last year, some believe it to be a response to the controversial Synod of Bishops on the family. ABC News says the recent synod was made up of bishops selected by Pope Francis. The synod rejected conservative Catholic views and urged the church to welcome gays and remarried Catholics.

ABC News says gay rights groups and liberal Catholics “cheered” at the synod. However, many conservative Catholics have expressed disapproval over Francis’ views on homosexuality and marriage. Cardinal Raymond Burke said that Francis’s, “lack of clarity had harmed the church and caused confusion.”

Forty-eight Christian ministers and scholars, including Rev. Rick Warren, signed an open letter to Pope Francis and the members of the synod, says Catholic News Service. The letter asked that Francis defend traditional marriage and “restore legal provisions that protect marriage as a conjugal union of one man and one woman.”

Moore commented on the synod in a blog post. He commended the bishops by saying, “We should not drive sinners away, but we should receive them and nurture them toward Christ.” He went on to say, “the church is not itself, though, to be made up of unrepentant people.”

Francis commented on his views on marriage during the first day of the conference.

“Children have the right to grow up in a family, with a mother and a father who can create a suitable environment for their development,” he says.

Dr. George Pickens, a professor of theology and mission at Messiah believes the conference is profoundly important for the future.

“We will never agree on everything but this conference is a good example of how we can peacefully coexist and even talk and learn from each other in spite of differences,” he says.

Pickens does not believe that the Pope’s comments on traditional marriage are a result of the contentious synod.

“I appreciate his courage to talk about it. I think it shows that he is aware of the realities of the world and he’s trying to be a good leader. He’s trying to create conversation,” Pickens says.

Messiah student Elizabeth Gutman admires what Pope Francis has contributed to the Catholic Church.

“He is an excellent example of simplicity and he accurately represents Saint Francis who he chose his name after,” she says.

The conference was the first Vatican sponsored interreligious conference on the topic of traditional marriage and family.

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