A MONTH after closing a Synod of Bishops on the family stirred by controversy over divorce, same-sex unions and other non-marital relationships, Pope Francis will open an inter-religious conference dedicated to traditional marriage.
The Vatican-sponsored gathering, on the “Complementarity of Man and Woman”, will be held on November 17-19 and feature more than 30 speakers representing 23 countries and various Christian churches, as well as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism and Sikhism.
The conference will aim to “examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society”, according to organisers.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia will be among the participants.
Other Americans at the conference will include former chair of the philosophy department at St John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver Mercy Sister Prudence Allen, whom Pope Francis named to the International Theological Commission in September.
Other notable speakers will include former chief rabbi of Great Britain Lord Jonathan Sacks and Anglican Bishops N.T. Wright and Michael Nazir-Ali.
Pope Francis will address the conference and preside over its first morning session on November 17, following remarks by prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal Gerhard Muller.
The conference was an initiative of Cardinal Muller, who proposed it to Pope Francis last November, according to a professor at George Mason University School of Law in Virginia, Helen Alvare, who is handling press relations for the event.
The conference is officially sponsored by the doctrinal congregation, and co-sponsored by the pontifical councils for Promoting Christian Unity, for Interreligious Dialogue and for the Family. The heads of all four curia offices are scheduled to address the assembly.
Topics of lectures and videos will include “The Cradle of Life and Love: A Mother and Father for the World’s Children” and “The Sacramentality of Human Love According to St John Paul II”.
Given its timing and subject matter, the conference is likely to invite comparisons with the October 5-19 synod on the family. Several conference participants have already commented publicly on the earlier event.