Diocese of

Hexham and Newcastle

Bishop Séamus Cunningham

Reflection on the Gift of Marriage and Family Life

Amoris Laetitia, 'The Joy of Love', is the 2016 post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation “on Love in the Family”. It brings together the results of the two Synods on the family convoked by Pope Francis in 2014 and 2015.

Please click on this link to read the document and a helpful summary:

Documents and Links from Bishops of England and Wales:

Family Document -The Call, the Journey and the Mission (700k)

Clergy Document (200k)

Link to Scripture Reflections on Marriage and Family Life

Deacon Peter Lavery, Diocesan Coordinator for Marriage and Family Life writes:

Ahead of the forthcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family in October 2015, Pope Francis, has asked us to reflect with 'true spiritual discernment' on the themes relating to marriage and family life that emerged from the Extraordinary meeting of Bishops held in Rome in October 2014.

In his Pastoral Letter on the Feast of the Holy Family, Bishop Seamus wrote: 'Pope Francis at the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family has reminded us that there are all kinds of families and relationships in today's world. Many are unsettled, broken or in other difficulties and all need to be approached with compassion. He criticised the Church for sometimes being too judgemental in its approach. He reminded us that the Church, called to be the family of God, is called to exhibit compassion and mercy within its own membership. It can only do this by allowing the Holy Spirit to fill it with the burning love and mercy of God. This will seek to bring healing and reconciliation within the family of the Church. But it will go much further than this as it drives the Church to reach out to those on the fringes of society, seeking to understand them and share the gospel of hope.'

In my role as Diocesan Co-ordinator for Marriage and Family Life, I can confirm the further opportunities that are now available for a three-fold process of reflection:

(1)The Bishops of England and Wales have published a document to help the faithful reflect and discern on this crucial aspect of Catholic life. This 5-page document, entitled THE CALL, THE JOURNEY AND THE MISSION, is available from the front page of our diocesan website or and can also be obtained as a printed version within your own parish. This valuable resource is above all else to help people celebrate marriage and family life, whilst recognising the difficulties that families often encounter.
It may be useful to reflect both personally and in groups – people joining together in their parishes, praying together and discussing the issues that face the family today. It is hoped that your conversations will inspire your prayer and action on behalf of families, all families, especially your own.
There are six Questions for Reflection with accompanying passages from Scripture:

  1. What are your joys and hopes of marriage and family life today?
  2. What are your struggles and fears of marriage and family life today?
  3. How can we better understand marriage as a vocation?
  4. How does your marriage enrich you?
  5. How does your family life enrich you?
  6. In what way, through the abiding presence of God, is your family "salt of the earth and light to the world," and a place of and for handing on our faith?

I am willing to personally attend any parish/deanery meeting to assist in any way that is required.
Feedback from these conversations can then be submitted to me by Sunday 17th May so that our Diocesan Summary can be given by Bishop Seamus to Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Bishop Peter Doyle who will attend the Synod.

(2) A 5-page REFLECTION DOCUMENT FOR THE CLERGY ON MARRIAGE AND FAMILY is also freely available on the above websites and our priests and deacons are asked to reflect upon the importance of marriage and their role in accompanying people on their journey of marriage and as families.
There are four stages of Reflection:

  1. Accompanying couples in the stage of Engagement
  2. Accompanying couples in and through the celebration of their Marriage
  3. Accompanying those whose marriages break down
  4. Accompanying people who have homosexual tendencies

Each section contains multiple questions concerning the pastoral care that is required so that the Church can faithfully reflect the mercy, tenderness and compassion of Christ. Our clergy are invited to reflect both personally and within their Deanery meetings during February and then forward a summary to me by Sunday 17th May.

(3) Finally, the Synod Office in Rome has published its LINEAMENTA (a Preparatory Document) for the Ordinary Synod on the Family. There are a large number of questions and, after the complexities of the last questionnaire, an alternate format is currently being prepared by our Bishop's Conference and will be published as soon as possible.
However, the timescale for consultation will be very short since the official deadline is expected to be 28th February.
Once again, I hope to be able to receive your responses by post, email and survey-monkey before compiling the Diocesan Summary that Bishop Seamus will forward to the Bishop's Conference  and then to Rome.

In summary, please respond generously to the these various opportunities for reflection, let me have your contributions as soon as possible and continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to inspire and lead the Church as it seeks to faithfully reflect the mercy, tenderness and compassion of Christ.

If you require any further information, please contact me:
Deacon Peter Lavery
Diocesan Co-ordinator for Marriage & Family Life
Address: 22 Langdale, Birtley DH3 2EL
Tel: 0191-4102530
Mobile: 07743-807312