Answers from Japan to the Questions in the Preparatory Document of the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of Synod of Bishops



Response to the Lineamenta
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan
May 6, 2015

The Relatio Synodi of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly affirms that although the situation may vary from country to country, in most cases the situation of families has many common aspects.

Supplementary points

Migrants: Migrants in Japan face a variety of problems related to marriage, stateless children, children’s faith education, transmission of the faith between generations and economic challenges. Some of those problems have their source in strict immigration laws and even in Canon Law. The Church must act both internally and in society to change this situation of the breakdown of the bases of marriage and family. It is also essential that the Churches in emigration sources and in receiving countries cooperate in analyzing and understanding these various problems in order to develop practical responses.
The elderly: The Church must consider ways to provide practical pastoral support to the elderly.
Parents and children: There must be a pastoral response to the difficulty of transmitting faith from one generation to the next.
Divorce and remarriage: In Japan, where some 90 percent of Christians are married to nonbelievers, divorce and remarriage are major problems. We look to the synod to provide hope-filled pastoral guidance that can help resolve these issues.


Listening: the context and challenges of the family

The Socio-Cultural Context(nos. 5–8)

1.1 Following the first such gathering in 1987, in 1993 the Church in Japan convened the Second National Incentive Convention for Evangelization (NICE II) with the theme “Finding the Ideal of Evangelization from the Realities of Family Life.” The convention determined that the Church in Japan must be a community united with “especially the weak, the suffering, the afflicted, bearing their burdens and, as members of the Christian fellowship, offering them to God together with the cross of Christ.”
While it is necessary that pastors be converted to a mentality that stresses providing care with a human and understanding touch, it is important as well that parents and each and every member of the family accept the love and commands of God as a unity that shapes their thoughts and values.
1.2 Becoming aware of the presence of God requires family prayer and Scripture reading adapted to each person’s level of ability to encounter Christ. Parents should give their children a familiarity with the Bible that will build a relationship of mutual love among parents and children. The Word of God teaches us to care for the weak and those in distress in the family and becomes a source of support in times of trouble
1.3 In order to nurture strong relationships, creating an environment in which three generations can live together is important, but in any case the most important thing is that members of a family be able to share with one another and experience love in that sharing. Pastors must guide couples to experience grateful joy in living their marriage enhanced by the sacrament. The Church must support couples in finding love in their mutual sharing. One place where couples can honestly share the reality of their daily life is Marriage Encounter (ME). If pastors, too, become involved in this program, it can bear good fruit.
1.4 Hardships arising from poverty often weaken the bonds of marriage and family. Especially among fatherless families the number of “working poor” is increasing, a phenomenon that takes a toll on children. The Church must confront society’s priority on economic matters to the detriment of warm relationships in the home.
1.5 As a result of Japan’s declining population and the aging of society, the need for elder care is rapidly increasing. The need is greater than individuals can handle, and so while the Church community attempts to influence society, it must also cooperate with local communities and volunteer activities.
Through the good functioning of the parishes, and district and diocesan pastoral councils, laity, religious and clergy have all come to share responsibility for the evangelization, pastoral care and faith development of youth and young parents.
1.6 People from all over the world who have gathered around the Lord’s table in local churches transcend nationality to shape communities of Christians who know they are united as disciples of Christ.

Pope Benedict XVI pointed out that modern society falls into relativism and materialism, and is poisoned by individualism and competition. The result is an increase in “nuclear families” where generations live in isolation, a weakening of ties among parents and children, and lack of clarity about the different roles of men and women. All this leads to increased disparity in society, especially in the case of the growing number of fatherless families who wind up among the working poor. A declining birthrate, abuse and an increase in child neglect result from a hedonistic mindset. On the other hand, women’s self-realization, social advancement and contributions are spreading. However, delayed marriage has led to cases of opting for childlessness.

3-1 It is important that the Holy See publicly recognize Marriage Encounter as a program for supporting couples. Having helped deepen the relationship between husband and wife, the Church should broaden its involvement in the relationship between parents and children. It is essential to provide opportunities for couples to come together with other couples and priests to honestly share the truth about their marriage and family life. Through such sharing, their ability to journey together with trust will increase, they will build an environment where conversation is easy and they will become more likely to notice problems. To facilitate all this the Church should encourage all couples to take part in ME after five years of marriage. Since the aim of ME is not simply to deepen the couple’s relationship, but to help them develop a stronger sense of Church, the involvement of priests is essential. Hence, it is desirable that ME be a part of priestly formation.
3-2 ME is also a suitable way to head off extreme problems.
The Church must devise ways to become a refuge for children who bear the brunt of family problems. The Sapporo diocese has set up a “Caritas Family Support Center” as such a refuge for families in extreme situations.
Pastoral sensitivity is necessary in the present situation where marital breakup often occurs. Financial problems underlie many of those breakups. The Church must challenge the government to make exemptions for school expenses and look at children’s education overall as a major problem.
In order that problems not be ignored or allowed to worsen, it is essential that those who face such situations inform the Church about the reality, since knowledge of a problem is the first step toward its solution.
In responding to marital conflict, divorce, personalities, finances, women’s issues etc. problems must not be seen as other people’s difficulties but problems facing all families. It will take a long time to develop this sensitivity. Challenges include respecting privacy, recognizing the shared nature of problems, prioritization of issues, finding go-betweens and guides who are acceptable to all parties and forming structures that can provide financial and other practical support.
3-3 Other steps that would have a positive effect upon couples’ awareness include workshops for couples, ceremonies to renew marriage vows on anniversaries (yearly, or on silver and golden anniversaries) and celebrating a “Couples Day” when couples can gather and share.

Behind the decision to not have children in marriage is individualism and social inequality. Many say, “We prefer to enjoy ourselves after we marry, so we won’t have children.” In addition, there are couples who decide to not have children for financial reasons. In the face of these trends, the Church can only, as expressed in Nos. 60-61, continually proclaim the value of marriage. If a couple’s choice to marry is prompted by God’s love, they can live with confidence. The Church must proclaim the love of God.
Young people need opportunities to discuss their situations, their mutual loves, their path to marriage and to confirm each other in their way of life.
Since the unity of the couple and the dignity of childbearing have often been presented merely as rules with little practical consideration of infertility, there are couples who feel that they have been cut off from God’s love and blessings. Among couples who feel anguish over infertility and have received a medical diagnosis that says there is no possibility of conceiving a child apart from in vitro fertilization, there are some who choose that way, though it is condemned by the Church.
The Church, like Christ, does not keep children away, but welcomes them. It is a place to learn the dignity of life as a wonderful gift from God. The Church celebrates the fact that childbirth is God’s wish and a participation in God’s creation of the divine image. The introduction and promotion of Marriage Encounter will solve many problems.

The Importance of Affectivity in Life(nos. 9–10)

5-1 Until now, family ministry has tended to focus on the prohibition of divorce and abortion. We must give more attention to the richness and grace of the sacrament of matrimony and to the importance of emotion in married life. The emotional maturity of a family requires Bible reading, prayer and the training of conscience. It also requires focusing on the human developmental stages of self-expression and self-realization. Parents must share with their children their joy in living their faith, one good example of which is the Focolare Movement. Exchanges among neighboring parishes should nurture each other’s emotional growth, since in addition to unity in the family, unity of heart is needed by the Church in its internal as well as external life and activity. And finally, pastors are needed who can shine the light of Scripture on social problems through preaching and sharing.
5-2 It is necessary to train priests who are emotionally mature in both their masculine and feminine aspects. In exercising leadership pastors must not be authoritarian. More than being teachers they must listen, empathize, share prayer and walk with the parishioners with a faithful, loving heart.
 Priests also should take part in ME and share with couples as an equal. Having begun to share intimately and develop a relationship of trust, pastors and families develop the confidence to discuss family matters. In this way, the Church can provide real support for families. Having learned from the sharing of couples, priests could have experience of encountering themselves and make their own relationships with others more richly human.
5-3 While making use of their own talents in such areas as youth ministry, social welfare or other specialties, pastors should also utilize parishioners’ expertise in their pastoral ministry. More research must be done of ways to take advantage of the Internet in such areas as catechesis and religious education.
Teams of laity, religious and clergy should be formed to provide marriage preparation programs. Some places benefit from the cooperation of experienced Catholic couples as well as Catholic physicians and nurses.
Pastors must minister with more than mere knowledge, wisdom, experience and humility. They must be people who not only talk, but who act. They must be people who listen.

Pastoral Challenges(no. 11)

6-1 Although there is no necessity to limit the pastoral area, in families where one spouse is a Christian it would be realistic to reach out to the non-Christian spouse or family members.
6-2 There are many effective and practical guidelines for ministry. These include marriage preparation courses and such programs as CHOICE for young people that provide an opportunity to experience joy through sharing. The participation of older couples in these programs can show the richness of married life to the youth and inspire in them the courage and desire to marry. Sharing the joy of life with one’s partner, building a healing home life, rejoicing in one’s children, having others to share in the raising of children all are means by which the joy of married life are shown. Visiting the homes of families that in the midst of difficulty and suffering continue to remain joyous, and listening to their stories also enables one to understand the benefits of family life.
The Church must show a willingness to join families facing difficulties and search out and take whatever practical measures are needed to find solutions.
6-3 While some young people are discouraged from marriage by the hardships of economic recession, others are strongly committed to marrying. The Church must make a “gathering space” for them and proclaim that true happiness is not found in pursuing individualism.
6-4 Priests and religious can also cooperate with the efforts of public welfare committees in order to be involved in shared efforts regarding ways of life.


Looking at Christ: the Gospel of the Family

Looking at Jesus and the Divine Pedagogy in the History of Salvation(nos. 12–14)

7-1 Familiarity with Scripture directs one’s gaze toward Christ. Thanks to the use of a weekly “Scripture and Liturgy” Mass pamphlet, the Sunday readings are used in faith formation programs.
7-2 Following the guidance of Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, for the past 10 years one diocese has engaged in a Loving Reading of the Bible Movement. Basically, either before or after the Sunday liturgy the entire congregation reads the Scriptures. The aim is that through sharing reflections on the Word of God with others the members will become more familiar with Scripture and find ways to connect it with their lives. In some areas, Scripture sharing utilizes the Bible in 100 Weeks program or the Seven Step method. Through their encounter with Scripture, participants’ way of thinking and living is changed by the spirit of the Gospel, they experience a sense of unity and enthusiastically embrace evangelization.
It is expected that when priests prepare Christian couples for marriage they read Scripture together, meditate upon it and share reflections. The couple should be led to see and accept that events in the Word of God are directed toward themselves today.

8-1 The value of marriage and family life is love that takes the form of deep joy. However, since motivation and dedication to achieving that love can weaken over time, the Church and parishes must continually provide encouragement for living the sacrament of matrimony in daily life.
8-2 There are many situations and experiences that illumine the value of marriage. The first is the conviction that “where love is, there is God.” The experience of each family member’s being cherished is another one. The family is a place where there are security, peace and healing in mind and body and where the mutual complementarity of man and woman in sex, compassion and mercy are conveyed. Through marriage, young couples find stable happiness and as they age together they come to a deeper joy in mutual service and giving and come to know the love of Christ who came to serve. And, when transcending differences of culture, language, nationality when couples understand each other and marry, we see the value of marriage that overcomes barriers.
8-3 We see the dimension of sin in our lives as indifference and self-centeredness. More than the obligations and burdens of marriage and family life, we must focus on deepening the joy of that life. This includes avoiding sin while not following the example of Adam and Eve who blamed each other for their failure and difficulty. When parents fail to go to church but instruct their children to do so, they are guaranteeing the rebellion of their children and it is no exaggeration to say they are taking the sacrament of matrimony lightly.

People need to be educated to listen to each other’s opinions while expressing their own in order to solve difficulties through communication. There are several basic principles that underlie this. The first is that human beings cannot mature in isolation. Therefore, it is essential that people share life with one another in order to become truly human. That sharing must be based upon mutually sharing love. In making decisions for action, one’s starting point must be one’s partner. Reconciliation and mutual forgiveness based upon acceptance of each other as they really are is essential. In the case of young people, the CHOICE program can be a great help in all this.

The light of God’s love dispels human imperfection. In order to understand the indissolubility of marriage it is necessary to understand the love of Jesus.
It is important that spouses be guided by experience to an understanding that their love for one another must be marked by unstinting giving of each to the other, since one cannot be fully human “except through a sincere gift of oneself.” (Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 24.)
In order to fully live the sacrament of matrimony, a couple must live in a commitment to each other that is marked by a complete, permanent and exclusive love.
The indissolubility of marriage is the basis for God’s blessing and to be supported as sacramental grace.
The couple’s free decision is raised to the level of the divine. In order to live this grace of indissolubility they need to be sustained and healed by the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance.
Lest young people enter into marriage wrongly, they should be taught about the sacrament. This should include hearing about the difficulties of married life from those who have been married a long time.

11-1 In home gatherings of Catholics, Christian couples, couples of mixed religion and aging Catholics who are the only Christian in their household and worry about losing their connection with the Church can all engage in frank discussions and form true fellowship.
Couples who are able to communicate at a deeper level than words become more sensitive to their relationship with the invisible God. For that to happen, daily dialogue is essential. Priests can become companions in this so long as they are willing to draw close to couples, sharing openly with them.
11-2 The only way to truly realize that marriage is blessed by God is to experience the grace of the sacrament in daily life. This is especially the case when through forgiveness and healing a couple comes to know God who is love. They experience the joy of knowing that they themselves are loved and loving. This becomes a concrete and real experience of the grace of the sacrament. Sharing the experience and blessings of marriage across generations is also beneficial.
11-3 In preparation for NICE II, Japan’s bishops called on Catholics to habitually follow three steps. The first is to look together with empathy on the actual situation of families. Then, through a deep encounter with Christ who cherishes each one, to foster a community of love. And finally, to proclaim Christ to every family by becoming a witnessing community.

The Family in God’s Salvific Plan(nos. 15–16)

By the mutual unstinting giving of their selves in love, couples come to an understanding of God’s plan. Through the particular concept of couples’ living their relationship the Church should research their ideal existence together with them. Sponsoring weekend Marriage Encounter experiences that help Catholic couples grow through focusing on the sacramentality of marriage is one way to do that. When faced with situations of infidelity or divorce, the Church must draw close to the couple to remind them that by performing the will of God they are participating in the fulfillment of God’s loving plan.

The fact that the family has a place in God’s salvific plan has many implications. They are discovered through making the home a place to pray together. Members of the family who experience the home as a place of community deepen their understanding of family, and through that parents can engage in the faith education of their children with the important assistance of pastors. If based upon Scripture, this catechesis about the family will be enhanced. The aim is to develop homes filled with the grace and blessings of the sacrament of matrimony. This happens when the intimate community of the couple’s love builds a locus where self-sacrificing love modeled on the cross of Christ can be put into practice. In some situations, this entails building a community that transcends differences of nationality. Permanent deacons can especially model the missionary value of a “family church,” a modeling that can be aided by participation in ME.

Support for this kind of family life comes from many sources. The first is family prayer, especially the rosary. Then there is the fulfillment of the family’s missionary vocation by the witness of its day-to-day life. Priests raise awareness of the vocation of the laity through their preaching, teaching, daily encounters and other opportunities, stressing that the home is to be a place of communion in love that affects other people and supports the missionary vocation of the members. Giving praise and thanks to God for continual graces and blessings reinforces a family’s life of faith and draws the members to desire to respond to the will of God. When all this is fulfilled, the family, the first school of peace and love, has an impact upon its neighbors and beyond to the rest of society and the nation.

The Family in the Church’s Documents(nos. 17–20)

15-1 Family members who truly love one another grow spiritually. They appreciate the joy of love and their praise of God naturally grows in depth and piety.
By conveying their love for one another, family members are able to honestly speak to one another about differences and convert minuses to pluses. Prayer is an absolute necessity for this.
When a couple gives birth to a child, taking part in God’s work of creation, they reach deep experiences that they had never known before. Understanding the meaning of the cross, they know the joy of making oneself nothing. By sharing their experience, they come to know God’s grace and deepen their spiritual life as individuals and a couple.
In order to help couples grow spiritually, retreat opportunities should be provided at least twice a year for couples, and on their anniversaries, especially the silver and gold, they could be invited to the church for a celebration that might take place at Mass.
15-2 Some sort of program that allows one to learn about the relationship of husband and wife through dialogue and prayer and actually living with them would be valuable.
Pastors should visit families and form relations with them. They should support the family practice of prayer and promote meditation on the Word of God. Pastors should teach them the importance of directing their minds to God, especially using morning and night prayers and calling upon God in need, in gratitude and in praise.
Through supporting parents who have troubles of life and are raising small children, pastors can remind them that they have been entrusted by God with new life.

The usual program of ME gatherings is for pastors and couples to gather for two-to-three hours every two weeks or once a month, but at least once every two months. There would be value in preparing several experienced and trustworthy couples of deep faith at the parish or diocesan level to be counselors who could deal with family problems. It is also necessary to train couples such as these. Age-appropriate sex education and thorough sacramental education can take place in sacramental and liturgical participation. There is a need to develop catechetical materials for the religious education of young people and catechumens that is appropriate to their age and level of maturity. Following their reception of Confirmation, people should be encouraged to rely upon the Holy Spirit both while seeking deeper understanding and while taking responsibility for putting what they learn into practice.

The Indissolubility of Marriage and the Joy of Sharing Life Together(nos. 21–22)

It is essential that couples’ relationship is made to grow so that it may continue to be the engagement based on the love: “I live with my spouse because he or she is irreplaceable in my life.” Rather than saying that having a child is essential to the completion of one’s own personality, we should stress that having children is a source of great joy. Becoming parents is a great source of growth for a couple, and there is no greater symbol of God’s love in the human world than the love of a parent. For a couple to freely accept each other and for parents to accept children as entrusted to them by God and to protect that life even at the risk of one’s own is to live with an awareness of the grace of God. The value of marriage is not to be found in self-centered fulfillment, but rather in coming to understand the mystery of Christ’s cross.
Those who live the consecrated life as a sign of Christian contradiction are also called to understand their own life.

Frequent opportunities for young couples who are preparing for marriage to meet and hear the stories of older couples who live marriage with joyful piety should be provided. Sharing those joys is a wonderful way to understand marriage. The family is a place of life, with parents giving life to their children, and children living as the embodiment of the parents’ love. Since it is an unequalled example of life, the family gives a unique example to the world.

The comment of Ron and Mavis Pirola at the 2014 Synod for the Family, “marriage is a sexual sacrament with its fullest expression in sexual intercourse,” is important. That spouses love one another is not simply a Christian reality; it is a foundational reality in all cultures and societies. Even in civil marriages, people take on mutual obligations that are beneficial in helping them understand the meaning of marriage.
There are various factors that affect the validity of a marriage, especially the immaturity of the couple or the important issue of how local customs (including arranged marriage) raise questions about whether a couple entered marriage freely and by mutual agreement. While certain unique customs embody the wisdom of a people, it is also important to respectfully and patiently lead people to a sacramental marriage. There would be value in the Church providing programs on a “Couples Day” or on individual wedding anniversaries that include non-Catholic as well as Catholic couples. There are reportedly ME programs in some places that are aimed at non-Christian couples. Each diocese should set up a Family Commission and an office to deal with marital problems staffed by both laity and clergy.

The Truth and Beauty of the Family and Mercy Towards Broken and Fragile Families(nos. 23–28)

20-1 More than anything else, people need to know from experience that they are loved. That is why pastors must stand side by side with people whom they meet, just as Jesus Christ does. They must convey God’s love and mercy as they have experienced it in their own lives. This is especially the case when dealing with families that are facing troubles, in which case it is not enough to merely offer advice. A pastor must listen to them and walk with the family in its pain and confusion, helping deal with their problems as his own.
20-2 There is an absolute necessity to immediately revise canon law and to thoroughly turn its administration to give priority to pastoral concern showing the love of God. A cold attitude on the part of the Church that stresses compliance with the law gives the impression that God may be someone who cuts wounded people off from fellowship with him and that the Church merely worsens people’s wounds and leaves as they are. When a civilly divorced Catholic approaches the Church for recognition that some impediment invalidated a marriage with an unbeliever, instead of seeing the value of the indissolubility of marriage or the importance of living together, the non-Catholic gets the impression of Christianity as some alien religion that intolerantly and obstinately imposes its norms. It is of first importance that canon law be revised to give priority to healing those who have been wounded. This involves ending juridical processes in favor of providing healing for the wounds of both parties, wounds that have brought about their separation. This can provide them with a new opportunity to encounter the love of God, enabling them to rebuild trust in that love and move on to build a new future. The provision of improved pastoral counseling for both should be required.
People who have been abandoned by a spouse, people in civil marriages and people who are cohabitating must always be shown that the Church does not consider them to be cut off from the loving mercy of God. People cannot always live up to the ideals for life that are presented by the Church. Yet even when people are unable to live the ideals of the Gospel, it is important to embrace them in their weakness on the way to the ideals.

It is always possible to convey the love of Christ to those who lack a full understanding of it, and through the experience of that love draw them to a deeper awareness of Christ’s love.
The first step is demonstrate that orientation by listening with acceptance, recognizing the difference between psychological and other problems and giving an orientation. Introducing sympathetic lay Catholics and even professional services when appropriate are important.
Along with laity who have families, clergy must be committed to actively accompanying these people. God does not discriminate, nor is God swayed by emotions. So, too, must people be received by the Church as entrusted by God and therefore accepted and given whatever support they need.
There should be Family Day or Marriage Day programs. For example, seven such events could be held and on the seventh occasion, the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist could be administered to those “who do not yet fully understand the gift of Christ’s love.”

We can free ourselves from prejudice and discrimination, recognizing that we can help our fellow children of God. We can abandon critical and rejecting attitudes in favor an attitude of listening, truly encountering the other, attempting to understand and exploring ways to journey together. Rather than approaching people in such situations as common-law marriage as if they had denied the value of family and marriage or the Church, we must avoid relying upon law and instead meet these people in charity as loved by God as we are, accept them, share their burdens, help them find freedom of heart and guide them toward salvation.
We should provide programs through which couples united by the sacrament of matrimony can truly live the sacrament and share with each other. Such programs should show how the Church values marriage and couples by also offering understanding to all couples, no matter the form of their relationship. Such support activities as ME and the Cana groups that volunteers conduct in various places can be very helpful.

Part III

Confronting the Situation: Pastoral Perspectives

Proclaiming the Gospel of the Family Today in Various Contexts (nos. 29–38)

23-1 In Marriage Encounter, as a part of their family life couples share regarding their involvement with one another, so it incorporates the entire family. Through this kind of sharing, the couple and the family show the overflowing joy of the home church and are formed to do yet more.
Family is not something to be learned, but, rather, something to be experienced. If pastors show themselves able to sympathize with the pains of families, will they not naturally come to understand those families? There is no greater understanding than that which comes from standing with others in their joys, their griefs and their pains. There are as many family situations as there are families. And so, it must be a matter of placing oneself in a position to not merely learn about families but to motivate them so that their choices in their milieu of life may be based on the faith. Through that, the Church becomes a community of those who in varied ways show love, generosity and understanding to people in their actual situations of difficulty and pain.
23-2 As part of their formation before ordination and even 10 and 25 years after ordination pastors should be given Christian Family Formation courses that include nurses, doctors, lawyers, educators etc. among the presenters. The object would be to look at both theory and experience to prepare participants to respond practically and holistically to the issues faced by families.
Consideration should be given to having seminarians as part of their training visit many homes of Christians to experience their joys and difficulties in actual situations. Then, sharing with one another their experiences and insights about the reality of social situations (business conflicts, ethical dilemmas, ignoring of human rights, the situation of part-time workers etc.) and their impact upon families can be an asset in their formation. This will require a radical reexamination of the seminary curriculum. For example, participation in programs such as ME that aim at deepening couples’ relationships or welcoming couples to the seminary to engage in similar programs would be required of seminarians. It would be of great benefit for the students to participate in sharing of experiences among several couples. Homestays with families with small children would also be a valuable experience.

24-1 We must proclaim the joy of families that share fully. A family is not made up of people who never bother each other, it is made up of people who need love in order to help one another.
24-2 Cursillo and such programs guided by the Word help people to explore their experience and are effective in giving them an experiential understanding of the priority of grace. The sharing a couple does in ME gives them joy that they realize is the work of the Holy Spirit. A couple’s spirituality deepens the relationship between the two of them, their relationship with God and their relationship with the rest of the world. Such strengthening of their relationship with God gives the couple a deeper prayer life that is open to the world of grace. It is in putting in the center of the theology of Grace (De gratia) the communion within the Trinity and Their self-giving to human beings that we should consider such issues as divorce and the reception of the Eucharist by those who have divorced and remarried.

25-1 In providing pastoral care, it is important to promote the catechesis of the social teachings of the Church. Indifference to political and economic realities cannot be allowed and Catholics must learn and put into practice the Church’s basic social thought. The Gospel enriches human hearts, gives joy to life and leads all people to happiness. Christians show their awareness of that enrichment and joy in their relationships and in their way of life.
At their heart, family problems are couples problems, and so programs that focus on couples are essential. Such a focus naturally fosters families in which children, too, experience rich relationships. Developing ME is an important means to achieving this.
25-2 If pastoral ministry were carried out in the context of a shared reality of life, it would bring about a great conversion from theories of family to an understanding of the reality of families.

26-1 It is the responsibility of the Church to reach out to those who have become alienated from it for whatever reason. In order to effectively serve families, it is important to know what sorts of support structures are in place in society and to cooperate with the Administration. Pastors must break away from merely concerning themselves with religious issues and make use of the basic knowledge and cooperation of the laity. Therefore, an interest in politics, speaking up for reform and especially offering support and encouragement to Christian politicians is important. There are various situations that require political power for their rectification. For example, companies send men far away from home without their families to accompany them. Overtime, the need for both parents to work, work on holidays etc. also force families to sacrifice. In order to protect families in such situations, political help is needed.

27-1 Christians, including pastors, should co-operate, participate in and support the various activities of local governments. In Japan, one day each month, generally the third Sunday, is designated as “Family Day.” With the participation, no matter who small, of each family in a parish, it can become a Catholic community for the entire area.
In order to improve the undesirable current situation for families caused by business practices, Catholics must learn to organize to put political pressure on businesses to bring about an improvement.
27-2 Support for NGOs such as Caritas is needed. And, it would be wonderful if this synod resulted in making the Year of the Family to be worldwide.

Guiding Engaged Couples in Their Preparation for Marriage(no. 39-40)

28-1 Marriage preparation should not consist of doctrinal lectures, but must involve dialogue. It is important that the couple preparing to wed should be able through reflection and dialogue to come to understanding on their own. Rather than having only clergy conduct marriage preparation, they should enlist the cooperation of older couples who can present their own experiences of the richness and joys of marriage. In this way, couples preparing to wed will be able to hear and feel at a familiar level the life they are preparing to enter. Married couples can present everyday life to be shared as it is actually lived. That sharing is sustained by faith and mutual trust. This sort of sharing can even help couples who are not believers who can begin to feel that they will be sustained by a great power. Seeds of confidence and trust will begin to grow within them and they will be guided to live with gratitude and forgiveness.
In a competitive society such as ours, it is especially important for people in making marital choices to start by creating in society the attitude to take time to thoroughly think about what they are doing and then to follow their choices with deliberation and commitment. Introducing role play and other such techniques into marriage preparation programs allows participants to explore gaps between theory and the realities of married life, better equipping them to be adaptable and responsible in their married life. Education about the differences between men and women, about caring, about cooperation in families is inadequate. Therefore, such it is necessary to start education regarding sex and marriage in early childhood and continue it until marriage in order to head off marital problems in the future.
28-2 Training programs should be set up that are run by teams of laity, clergy and professionals.

29-1 Preaching about God’s love according to Church teaching about the family is helpful. In addition, situations where lay people can share insights with catechumens are needed.
29-2 We must listen to the experiences of Christian couples to learn the importance of shared faith and how it gives the hope necessary to move forward in times of challenge.
29-3 Baptism welcomes people into the Church community. The Eucharist is that community’s sharing. The family or couple is the smallest community in the Church. Presupposing all these, the church must show the connection among Baptism, Eucharist and marriage and explain how through such connections the joys of one family are the joys of the whole parish and the whole Church and that the sorrows of a family or couple become the sorrows of the parish and the whole Church. Born as God’s beloved children in baptism, following the divine way by receiving the body of Christ who is the way, the truth and the life and living in God’s love with Christ, the couple with their family journey toward their eternal home. The sense of unity that comes from walking that journey with one’s spouse and with Christ is strength for the journey, a sense that comes most clearly, perhaps, through the grace of the Mass.
Formation programs for laity which are holistic and connects all the elements, including the relationship between the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist and that of Matrimony are needed.
29-4 The entire parish community should be involved in any such programs.

Accompanying Married Couples in the Initial Years of Marriage(no. 40)

30-1 In addition to marriage preparation, it is important and effective for new couples to have relationships with those who concern themselves with families afterwards. However, such programs are not yet generally available in Japan.
30-2 Marriage Encounter can play a role of accompaniment in a marriage’s early years and continue to deepen a couple’s love for one another throughout their married life. Through ME, couples receive great blessings for their married and faithful life, gradually coming to a deeper awareness that God is with them on their life’s journey. When marriage preparation courses focused on sharing involve gathering 10 or even as many as 20 times, the groups of couples that form become a community and come to develop their support relationship even after their weddings.

31-1 Rather than expecting couples to think as the Church does, is it not more important that the Church present itself as willing to be involved in the problems a family faces? Over time, a couple’s interest in each other can gradually wane and they can find they have less and less to do with one another. In such circumstances, help for deepening the relationship is needed. The Marriage Encounter weekend program can play that role in a certain way.
31-2 Parish facilities should provide spaces where young couples can gather while their young children can play freely. Even when one spouse is not a Christian, they should be able to come and have some free time together while experienced couples provide a babysitting service. Such solicitude is required so that couples can have time away from childcare in order to spend time together looking at each other and deepening their love and faith. The Church should strongly promote such programs as Marriage Encounter and Couples for Christ that aim to assist couples and families.

Pastoral Care for Couples Civilly Married or Living Together(nos. 41-43)

The criterion of pastoral discernment must be the care of those who are most vulnerable. That begins with a clear perception of the order among those who are to be saved. It is ultimately a matter of understanding whether or not people realize that marriage is the joining together of two people by God. It is also a matter of whether they have made a marital engagement of faithfulness to each other that is involves love as a permanent, complete and exclusive commitment. The Church has guidelines, but in some cases it may be necessary to defer to the couple in certain matters, leaving responsibility for their choices to them. Without alienating those who are cohabiting or are in common-law marriages, could we set up a system where senior couples can provide warm care for them?

33-1 Opportunities must be provided to help couples realize through their sharing and experiences that the ties between a man and woman and their married life are enriched and deepened by God’s blessing.
33-2 Although there are Marriage Encounter programs for non-believing couples, for those programs to be effective it is necessary that participants meet believing couples whose marriage is marked by lively joy and glow in living the sacrament.

It is essential to respect as much as possible the variety of forms and customs of marriage in different cultures. However, when those customs violate human rights, especially the rights of women, they must be resisted. Community support as well as formation programs are needed that promote the couple’s option of the way of life regarding themselves as the basic unit of society and respecting their mutual relationship.

Caring for Wounded Families (Persons who are Separated, Divorced and Not Remarried, Divorced and Remarried and Single-Parent Families) (nos. 44–54)

Note: According to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, of the 660,000 couples that married in Japan in 2013, 26.3 percent contained at least one party who had remarried, compared with 12.7 percent in 1975. Of them, in 62,000 cases both people were remarrying, and 46,000 were couples in which the man was wedding for the first time and the woman was remarrying.

35-1 What the Church speaks of as wounded families have become so common that nowadays families marked by separation, divorce with or without remarriage and single-parent homes are no longer referred to by a particular term. Everyone encounters such situations as normal. Therefore, the time has come for all Christians who are building families to restore the concept of family and home.
The Church in Japan has not developed a receptive understanding of wounded families nor has it given them sufficient attention, if it has paid any attention at all. On the other hand, wounded families avoid involvement with the Church community. However, the Sapporo Caritas Family Support Center in which lay volunteers provide legal, psychological and welfare counseling to wounded individuals and families has become a great source of strength to them. It is a sign of the Church trying to respond to the needs of society today.
The Christian community has the ability to meet the needs of wounded families, but the Church in Japan is small and has few of the necessary specialized human resources. It is a challenging situation. And that challenge is even greater in communities with large numbers of foreign members. We need someone to be inspired to take the initiative and show the way.
Because there are so many problems within the home among family problems it is difficult to provide immediate help when crises arise. Even so, it is essential to provide some sort of individuals and systems that can provide healing.
35-2 This effort is a big challenge, requiring a national mechanism to deal with it. “Thoroughly review anew from the pastoral, canonical and other points of view the ways of dealing with the divorced and remarried (those canonically bound by another marriage), trying to find solutions in keeping with the Gospel teaching.” “For the Church to be a genuine participant in our society, and to be the Good News toward the afflicted, it is imperative that it thoroughly review from psychological, social, theological, canonical and pastoral considerations how it approaches these problems” (NICE I: Special Proposal and Rationale).
35-3 The first step is to make a place in the Church for wounded people where they can be listened to, prayed with and simply be with others. Just as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman, the community must accept these people as persons in need who, like us, are born of God. God creates a variety of people, and we believe we must welcome them as our brothers and sisters without prejudice or distinction.
Priests, too, must teach the laity to stop gossip and harmful speech and lead them to welcome such wounded people with the tenderness of the Father. Regardless of the situation, priests must show to the wounded the compassion, mercy, forgiveness, love and healing of God, trusting in Him.
In the future, the Church should provide places where people suffering from divorce, separation or other problems can comfortably share and be provided with pastoral care.
It is essential that formation aim at training pastors and faithful as well who have thoroughly learned the Scriptures through a lifetime of study, have depth of wisdom and spirituality, and have throughout their life been persons of prayer who have touched the heart of Christ and can therefore walk on the way of life of Christ as their model.
The community must grow. In a situation where members are not being taught that the evangelization of the political and economic spheres is their vocation, training in the social teaching of the Church is the starting point for that teaching.

36-1 Under the guidance of the bishops, laity, clergy and religious must acquire new information and disseminate it. Seminars, workshops, study groups, the Internet and such can all contribute to this. All the dioceses should share a single pastoral approach easily accepted by the laity in each diocese.
36-2 In cases of marriage involving migrants, cooperation between the bishops’ conferences of the home country and the receiving country is important. Clearly, for this cooperation to occur the Holy See’s involvement is desirable.
Vatican documents such as letters, encyclicals, exhortations etc., are important, but they are not read by average believers. In fact, even priests are not able to read them sufficiently. On-going formation for both laity and clergy must immediately work at rectifying this situation.

37-1 Instead of a tribunal of three judges, the possibility that canonical procedures could be simplified to require only a single judge should be considered. This would allow many more cases to be processed with less delay.
As for the second instance, it should also be possible to simplify the process in cases where invalidity is self-evident and the use of simplified procedures should also be allowed depending upon the circumstances of each case.
Cases could be handled quickly if the diocesan bishop were able to process them. Until now, cases involving resolution in favorem fidei have been reserved to the Holy See, but giving such normal authority to diocesan bishops would make the process more convenient, quicker and more pastorally supportive. This conforms to amendment n. 4 to the Code of Canon Law, where the bishop has the authority to dispense from general law.
Consideration should be given to decentralization, handling cases in each country (for example, by the apostolic nuncio or delegate) instead of in Rome.
There is some fear that oversimplifying the process of annulment might increase the number of casual marriages and divorces.
More than legal solutions, we must think of more sensitive ways to deal with suffering people. When in fact solutions are impossible, to some extent reconsideration should take place a number of years after a first marriage has broken up.
It is important first of all that laity and clergy together learn and know the procedures relating to Canon Law.
37-2 Since dispensing with fees for handling cases depends upon the financial situation of the parties and the diocese, changing the system might be difficult. However, it seems necessary to dispense with fees altogether or reduce them according to the financial situation of the parties. No one should be unable to present a case because of poverty.
Conditions vary from country to county and adaptations must be made. Decisions regarding such adaptations should be left to the diocesan bishop.
If legal training sessions take place on a regular basis at the ecclesiastical province level, this could lead to the first step toward the dispensation of fees.

That the Church is now considering these issues is both a surprise and a joy. Only a short time ago, such consideration was unthinkable. We can only hope for continued open discussion.
38-1 The first consideration is to understand the mercy of God. Based on that, the starting point for dealing with such families is to discern their experience and faith. To discern the will of Jesus, the entire community should pray together before the Blessed Sacrament. Then, in following that will, the Lord’s grace will reach those in need of it.
How this happens depends upon the time and place. Those who have unavoidably divorced must be provided with pastoral care marked by love and mercy. On the other hand, the Church must take seriously the case of those who have divorced for selfish reasons and should discuss it.
Even in the case of sacramental marriages, a more sympathetic acceptance of circumstances is necessary.
In cases of divorce and remarriage without an annulment, might we consider it not as “sin,” but as starting over again after failure? Even if divorce results from individuals’ weakness and mistakes, and results in remarriage, in that situation they are once again called in that reality to live as Christians. Those who have such an intention need the food for their journey that they can receive through the Church.
The prerequisite is deep faith formation for families. A living relationship with the Lord and support from below and transforming grace are essential. The parish must be a place where they can encounter the Lord’s unconditional welcome, mercy and love and grow in this transforming love until it blossoms into a new way of life.
38-2 Under certain conditions, those who have divorced and remarried should be allowed to receive the sacraments.
The Sacrament of Penance is open to them. The heart of Christ draws near to those who suffer. As Pope Francis says in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, “The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” The Eucharist is food for imperfect human beings who start from their own reality to follow Christ’s way of life.
Would it be possible to offer people a period of repentance and purification during which they show a commitment to living the faith? Following that, the pastor could with the approval of the bishop determine that the person can once again approach the sacraments. Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but urged her to confront her sin. She was able to feel the mercy and forgiveness of God. The Church must always show this same heart of Christ.
For example, there could be conditions set, such as determining after ten years that there have been no special problems and that local Christians have accepted the person. In fact, second marriages often work out fine.
If possible, a process for the reconciliation of separated partners should be provided and, then, they will be welcome with the understanding of the community. Just as in civil society there are professional reconciliation and arbitration groups, it would be valuable to have such a provision in the Church as well. They could be part of the Church court system.
If the parties live with the parish community, respect the sacrament of matrimony and have prepared their hearts for the sacrament, by applying the “principles of hope” embodied in the sacraments of Baptism and Penance it might be possible to welcome them to receive the Eucharist even after a short period.
38-3 Since guidance is available, there should be uniformity in pastors’ dealing with such situations.

39-1 Current legislation cannot provide an effective solution in all cases. In Japan, less than one percent of the population is Christian, with Catholics at 0.35 percent. In like Japan where Christians are such a minority, it is necessary to consider the actual situation of minorities.
39-2 Because of inadequate religious formation, it is noticeable that many Catholics are insufficiently aware that in cases of mixed marriages a dispensation is needed. When they sign the promises before the wedding, they often do so without fully understanding them and after the wedding the Catholic party no longer attempts to keep a relationship with the Church.
How to support Catholic spouses who are isolated among non-Christians is a challenge.

Pastoral Attention towards Persons with Homosexual Tendencies(nos. 55–56)

40-1 Persons with homosexual tendencies suffer most. They need encouragement, with medical assistance, to be able to live as a human beings. Once their gender orientation is confirmed by long testing and treatment of the results, then they can choose a way of life.
Even though the Church cannot recognize same-sex marriages, there is no way that we can assume that a sexual orientation not chosen by someone is cause for their rejection by God. At the least, the Church should convey the message that households that have been set up by men and women with a homosexual orientation are also blessed by God. Recently, Shibuya ward in Tokyo passed by a slight majority an ordinance to issue “partnership certificates” to same-sex couples whose living arrangements are “equivalent to marriage.”
Christians must know that the prejudice and discrimination faced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people is unfair. Rather, it is necessary to accept them as a social minority.
The need remains for the Church to continually teach Christians the purpose of marriage.
40-2 For families who realize they have homosexual members, there is no choice but to accept the person with the same love and mercy as Jesus Christ who always distinguishes between a sin and the sinner. For priests who are informed of the situation in confession, there is no need for them to do anything beyond offering advice.
40-3 Non-judgmental acceptance of homosexual persons and their families is the norm. They should be prayed with to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Absolutely no one is excluded from the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Guiding congregations to think as a Church community is valuable. To help that, it might be possible to bring in experts to speak about the problems of sexual minorities.
There is no need to change the definition of marriage revealed by God as essentially oriented to the bearing of new life out of the love of the couple. However, the Church must approach that conviction with the heart of a mother. When the Church has utilized the standpoints of religious studies, medicine and science, and searched for any and all solutions without finding any fundamental solutions, she must, like a mother, wipe the tears from the eyes of those who suffer and help them to salvation. It is, of course, essential to tell homosexual persons and their families that their orientation is not a choice, but is somehow received from God and therefore there is no question that the person has the right to receive the sacraments.

The Transmission of Life and the Challenges of a Declining Birthrate(nos. 57–59)

41-1 There is a big gap between what is taught in Church documents and what most Catholics actually believe and do. It is important to not judge families, but to listen carefully to the problems and concerns that they face.
The Church must work harder to raise the consciousness of society that children are gifts from God. That gift is not given solely to the parents, but to society as a whole. And so, society as a whole must cherish and raise children. Society must be such that parents can bear children with confidence.
The Church must continuously and firmly issue a call to live beautiful lives. The Church, believing that according to God’s plan the relationship between men and women is open to life, must always proclaim and practice a “culture of life.”
The time has come when societies and employers, local communities and families must all think seriously about how to provide a friendly environment for conjugal love, family, childbirth and child rearing.
41-2 Organizations of Catholic medical professionals and scientists such as the Catholic Medical Association are needed to train members so that they might present the Catholic position to the world.

42-1 Instead of making “Catholics cannot use artificial birth control” the starting point for thinking about the matter, we should make an effort to convey the mystery and dignity of life. The Catholic Church should cooperate with all efforts to convey this message.
42-2 One of the causes of the dropping birth rate is the collapse of the custom by which three generations lived together and the increase in couples where both work. In addition, homes have become smaller. National policies on parenting are lacking, and the economic system does not provide an environment that is friendly to child rearing. The Church, too, must do more in this regard.
It is important that the Church develop an infrastructure to save lives and must be ready to receive them. (Examples are the “Stork Cradle” at the Kumamoto Jikei Hospital in Japan and “baby boxes” or “baby hatches” and such elsewhere as well as services for pregnant women and mothers worried about childbirth and child rearing where they and those close to them can share concerns, think about them and come to conclusions. There should be places where those who are bearing an unwanted pregnancy or have fears about their pregnancy can discuss their situation.)
42-4 There is strong prejudice in Japan against foster care and adoption. But the Church must have the heart of Christ who loved children and so must have the courage to raise children who have lost their families. Therefore, it must encourage society to improve and promote adoption and foster care in the country. Christians must at the very least demonstrate support for those efforts and even be willing to consider going beyond that level of cooperation. We must convey the situation of those women who continue to pray for the happiness of their children with whom they have parted, saying, “Though I cannot raise this child myself, for the sake of its future happiness, rather than cut off its life, I will bear it and then turn it over to someone who is able to lovingly raise it.”
42-4 There are families that take in foster children for some period of time without intending to adopt them. Those children might remain with a family until reaching adulthood. During that time, they can live at ease, knowing they have a place where they belong. They experience local society and see a model for when they eventually have families of their own.
Before attempting to work on government or society, each diocese itself must change its consciousness, improving its own structures such as family commissions.
Part of marriage preparation should teach couples that becoming parents does not mean merely raising the children to whom they have given birth themselves.

It is through the maturing of both the paternal and maternal aspects of one’s personality that one grows into a complete human being. In some dioceses, children’s religious education programs teach about the vocation to be a father or mother and it is also stressed in marriage preparation courses.
In addition, adult Catechumens as well as Christian children who are becoming grown-up must be instructed in our common human vocation to nurture humanity through the paternal and maternal maturation.
Might we introduce into the annual liturgy a month for married life, home, family, couples, parents and children, brothers and sisters during which at Mass there could be some provision for giving witness? This could provide a good opportunity to personally reflect upon one’s own challenges and honestly face oneself.
In addition, the call to be a father or mother as genuinely a vocation from God should be taught from a Biblical perspective.
It is absolutely essential that we develop an environment in which young parents can confidently raise children. The Church must seriously consider what it can do toward that end.
Formation programs for couples are needed that deepen their understanding that living fatherhood and motherhood are responses to the Christian vocation that is part of the gift of the sacrament of matrimony

When faced with a situation of pregnancy out of wedlock, those close to the mother as well as the Church must draw close to the woman. There should be no worrying about what society might think nor emphasizing sin. In this regard, we need to examine how we must transform our attitudes.
It is important to stress marriage, married love, the joy and beauty of childbirth and child rearing and to convey continually and tirelessly the invitation and the exhortation to follow this path.
It is also important that the Church show itself willing to draw near to women whose hearts are wounded by abortion, offering support in their pain.
Christian women in Japan are making known and supporting well-respected activities such as the Pregnancy Hotline or the Respect Life Center’s “Embryo Fund” (a pun on the Japanese currency, the en [yen] and the Italian “brio’) that collects funds to assist pregnant women who though they want to give birth are in situations that require assistance. The “Stork Cradle” baby hatch at the Jikei Hospital is a well-known support activity.
The time has come to look again to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan’s statement “Reverence for Life” and once again take up the issues it deals with, showing the Church’s stance of hope and forgiveness rather than judgment and condemnation.
We should support such activities as the Pro-Life Movement.

Upbringing and the Role of the Family in Evangelization(nos. 60–61)

45-1 In Japan, the realization that faith education must take place in the home is weak. Some solidarity and support through day-to-day relationships is provided to those troubled by the changing demands of child rearing as children grow. It is necessary, however, to search out a broader, more organized approach.
Often, pushing responsibility onto the newly baptized drives them away from the Church. In the meantime, after Mass, dedicated members of the parish are busy with meetings while the children play games to pass the boring time. As church becomes increasingly boring, there is a tendency for children to leave the Church when they reach the higher grades of school. In addition, only children and their parents are deeply involved in the religious education program of a parish, while families whose child-rearing days are past tend to lose interest in those programs. There must be an awareness that the children are children of the entire Church.
45-2 When a religious education program in parish becomes more active and substantial, it becomes a great support to parents as well as to their children.
Energy must be directed toward lifelong training, especially for lay leadership.
Church communities are not immune to the trends of our age, and are turning into clubs marked by rationalism and exclusivism. We must stress that the Church is meant to be a faith community that lives as Christ.
Parishes must become places where children, the future of the Church, are interested in and feel at home.
In addition to organizing systematic education programs, parishes should provide play rooms and playgrounds where children can pass time.
45-3 The Church should advocate more on behalf of recognition by society and government of the role of parents in education, making provision for families to be able to spend more time together.
In most Japanese municipalities, the third Sunday of each month is “Family Day.” The Church should become actively involved in that custom.

Japanese families today are different from what they were 30 or 40 years ago, and from Christian families as well. Because faith is not sufficiently nourished in Christian families and the direction of society as a whole conflicts with Christian values it is very difficult to raise a child as a believer. Therefore, it is important that parents struggling to raise their children as Christians feel their parishes to be welcoming and supporting. This is a task for the entire parish community.
Before correcting its children, the Church must show itself to be like a mother, embracing and accepting them. Then, correction will be felt as love rather than strict judgment. The Church and its pastors must above all strive to show in practice the mercy of Jesus.
The home is the first locus of mission, a small Church. It is through the home that the Church encounters people, and people encounter the Church (Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, nos. 15, 21, 39). Couples, parents and siblings together can transmit faith through giving importance to a Biblically-based life of prayer and daily life lived in tune with the Church’s liturgical calendar. Their faith life will be steadily nourished through such practices.
In the formation of candidates for the permanent deaconate, three points are essential. The first is to convey practical ways to promote their responsibility to transmit the faith. The next is to organize deacon couples meetings that provide spiritual strength and nourishment for their ministry of transmitting the faith and evangelization. And, finally, that deacon couples be aware that they have received a special mission.

May 6, 2015
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan