The 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops took place from Oct. 4–25, 2015, in Vatican City. The theme was, “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.” The purpose of the synod was to continue the work of the 2014 Extraordinary General Assembly by reflecting on the challenges associated with the pastoral care of the person and the family as identified in its final relation, and by formulating appropriate pastoral guidelines to address those challenges.
On March 13, 2015, Pope Francis was presiding over a penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica when he announced an extraordinary Jubilee dedicated to Divine Mercy. During his homily for the service, the pontiff drew a clear connection between the sacrament of reconciliation and our heavenly Father, who is “rich in mercy” and who “extends his mercy with abundance over those who turn to him with a sincere heart.”
I was standing in the heart of New York City – just a few feet away from nationally recognized network and cable television news anchors broadcasting on Fifth Avenue near St. Patrick Cathedral. That’s where I was the first time I saw Pope Francis during his Apostolic Journey to the United States.
It would be an understatement to describe Pope Francis’ visit to the United States (Sept. 22-27, 2015) as historic – but historic it certainly was. From his addresses at the White House and a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., to his speeches at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, Pope Francis covered a wide spectrum of subjects while still finding time to celebrate several Masses, canonize a saint, dine with the homeless, bless babies and those afflicted with debilitating conditions and meet with prisoners.
On Sept. 22-25, 2015, the city of Philadelphia will host the 8th World Meeting of Families. It will be the first time the event has ever been held in the United States, and millions of visitors from more than 150 nations are expected to attend.
On September 8, 2015, Pope Francis issued two new motu proprii amending canon law as it pertains to the procedure for a declaration of marriage nullity, often called the annulment process. The first, entitled Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (The Lord Jesus, The Gentle Judge), was directed at the Latin Code of Canon Law. The second, entitled Mitis et misericors Iesus (The Gentle and Merciful Jesus), amended the text governing those Eastern Churches in full communion with the Roman Church. Both documents were signed by the pope on August 15.