The family (the Synod and Amoris Laetitia)

The family (the Synod and Amoris Laetitia)

In April 2016, Pope Francis published an important document on marriage and family, titled Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love).  It was the fruit of a 3-year process, including two assemblies of the Synod of Bishops.  A few explanations are in order.

An assembly of the Synod is a meeting of bishops convened by the Pope to discuss of a particular question.  Pope Francis chose the family as the theme of his first Synod.  This was a bit surprising, since there already had been an assembly of the Synod dedicated to that theme in 1980, under Pope John Paul II.  What was even more surprising was that he decided to precede the ordinary assembly with an extraordinary assembly.  Furthermore, he demanded that there be a broad preliminary consultation of lay people on the issues that would be studied by the bishops.

Ordinary assemblies, usually convened every three years, gather about 250 bishop delegates from every country in the world with other bishops who work at the Vatican, as well as observers and specialists.  Extraordinary assemblies consist only of the presidents of each episcopal conference with the curial bishops and a more restricted number of observers and specialists.  The extraordinary assembly convened in 2014 by Pope Francis was the first held to prepare an ordinary assembly.  That assembly took place in October 2015.  Our bishop, Msgr. Durocher, took part in both assemblies of the Synod: the first as president of the CCCB and the second as a delegate elected by his colleagues.  (Note that Canada has the right to send four delegates to an ordinary assembly of the Synod.)

Tradition decrees that the Pope compose a post-Synodal document known as an apostolic exhortation.  Amoris laetitia innovates in many ways.  First, it’s the longest post-Synodal exhortation since the creation of synods in 1965 (Cf. the decree by Pope Paul VI establishing the Synod).  It also surprises by the diversity of styles he adopts: sometimes, the Pope uses a tone of fraternal conversation addressed to couples; elsewhere, he sounds like a sociologicy professor reporting on the status of the family around the world; he sometimes uses the tone of a pastoral directory for dioceses and parishes; he sometimes writes as if he were presenting a dissertation in Biblical, moral, or sacramental theology.  Finally, he specifically invites theologians and bishops to continue exploring the questions raised during the Synod, while recognizing that some paths of action must be adapted to local realities.

This text is well worth the reading.  For couples, it presents concrete topics of reflection concerning their marriage and family life.  For pastors, it proposes plans of action and attitudes to develop as they accompany God's people.


The Office for Evangelization and Catechesis of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) have developed and launched a web-based video resource to assist with reflections on, and in the study of, Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia on love in the family. The resource consists of nine 7-8 minute videos as well as discussion guides. It is designed to be used by individuals in their homes or by groups gathered in diocesan, eparchial, parish, school or other Catholic institutional settings.

Link to the English video series

Link to the discussion guides (PDF)


  • Download and read the text Amoris laetitia, the post-Synod apostolic exhortation on the family.
  • Read the commentary made on it by Msgr. Durocher in the Vatican journal, l’Osservatore Romano.
  • Listen to the interview Msgr. Durocher gave to Radio-Vatican on the eve of the end of the Synod on the Family, (20-minute video, in French only).
  • Participate in a parish activity where the Papal exhortation is presented.

Consult the Web page of our diocesan table on family ministry.