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 Lisa Bourne / LifeSiteNews

ROME, October 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — The mainstream media has picked up on Pope Francis’ closing speech at the Synod, calling it an attack on so-called “conservative”  Church leaders upholding the Church’s doctrine, and there are plenty of statements from the pope to support that assertion. In his address, Pope Francis condemned “the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families.”

America magazine, the English-language Jesuit publication that has run some of the pope’s most significant interviews, suggests that Francis was criticizing especially the faithful prelates in the Vatican’s curia.  Gerard O’Connell, a more than thirty-year Vatican correspondent, notes that the pope saw “four senior collaborators who head offices in the Roman Curia—Cardinals Muller, Ouellet, Pell and Sarah—rowing in a different direction to him.”

In his address, Pope Francis said the Synod was about “trying to open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints, so as to defend and spread the freedom of the children of God, and to transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible.”

Pope Francis: “The true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit.”

On a theme similar to his previous statements about decentralizing the Church and giving bishops conferences real authority even on doctrinal matters, Pope Francis said: “We have also seen that what seems normal for a bishop on one continent, is considered strange and almost scandalous for a bishop from another; what is considered a violation of a right in one society is an evident and inviolable rule in another; what for some is freedom of conscience is for others simply confusion.” 

In another apparent swipe at faithful Synod fathers, Francis said, “The Synod experience also made us better realize that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness.”  We must, he said, overcome “the recurring temptations of the elder brother and the jealous labourers.”

“The Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas,” he said, “but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion, and to lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord.”

The emphasis of the closing address was markedly different than the one he gave at last year’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family, when the pope criticized both “traditionalists” and “progressives.”