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Pope Francis consults the world's Catholics on future of church

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Pope Francis’s belief that the church is more about its flock than its shepherds.The Synod of Bishops, from 4 to 29 October, will be followed by a second session at the same time next year, which is expected to put forward specific proposals for Francis to consider in a future document on the direction of Roman Catholicism.

The working document for the meeting has been compiled by a committee after an unprecedented two-year canvassing of rank-and-file Catholics around the globe.The final product is meant to stimulate debate, and it poses agenda items in the form of questions – though some of the questions make clear a certain consensus that was reached during the consultation phase.For example, the document calls for concrete steps to promote women to decision-making roles in the church, including as deacons, and for ordinary faithful to have more of a say in church governance.It also calls for the "radical inclusion" of LGBTQ+ Catholics and others who have been marginalised by the church, and for new accountability measures to check how bishops exercise their authority to prevent abuses.Francis has also suggested there could be ways to bless same-sex unions.In a letter published Monday by the Vatican, which he wrote in response to five conservative cardinals who challenged him to affirm church teaching on homosexuality ahead of the Synod meeting, Francis suggests that such blessings could be considered if they remained clearly distinct from the sacrament of marriage.New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBTQ+ Catholics, said the letter “significantly advances" efforts to make LGBTQ+ Catholics welcome in the church and is “one big straw towards breaking the camel’s back” in their marginalisation.Blessings Guidance ‘Significantly Advances’ Pope Francis’ Affirmation of LGBTQ+ People(Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry) 1/13The Vatican holds that marriage is an indissoluble union between a man and a woman.

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