(The Telegraph) Suite 201 at Casa Santa Marta is only a shuttle bus ride from the Vaticanâ€™s Synod Hall, but it seems a world away. And in the spartan suite of rooms which he calls home, Pope Francis must be feeling especially cut off from the 252 leading Catholics who took part in his recent Extraordinary Synod.
Under the umbrella theme of â€œThe Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelisationâ€, the Pope, his bishops and a few selected laypeople have spent the past fortnight discussing some of the thorniest topics in Catholic doctrine: divorce, gay sex, and birth control.
Even in a Church characterised by its supporters as proudly unchanging (and by its critics as stubbornly anachronistic), these are divisive issues. And when the new Pope last year took the unexpected step of sending out a survey to all Catholic parishes, asking the faithful for their views on birth control, abortion and divorce, the findings made uncomfortable reading: the Church was as split between traditionalists and modernisers as the Conservative Party was at its lowest ebb.
The analogy may infuriate those who say that the Church is about eternal truths, not party squabbles. But it conveys the rift that polarises the worldâ€™s 1.2 billion Catholics. The â€œuniversalâ€ Church embraces the Ugandan homophobe and the Manhattan gay rights campaigner; the mother of six who practises the rhythm method and the feminist divorcee on the Pill. [more]