The Synod on the family is not a parliament where participants negotiate, Pope Francis said, but a place of prayer where bishops speak with courage and open themselves to "God who always surprises us," reports the Catholic News Service.
Opening the first working session of the Synod on Monday, the Pope said the 270 voting members need courage, "pastoral and doctrinal zeal, wisdom, frankness, and to keep always before our eyes the good of the church and of families and the supreme law -- the salvation of souls."
Arriving about 15 minutes before the session began, Pope Francis welcomed to the synod hall the members, delegates from other Christian communities and the men and women who will serve as experts and observers.
The Synod is not a convention or a parliament, Pope Francis said, "but an expression of the Church; it is the Church that walks together to read reality with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God."
Synod members must be faithful to Church teaching, "the deposit of faith, which is not a museum to be visited or even simply preserved, but is a living spring from which the Church drinks to quench the thirst and enlighten" people, he said.
The synod hall and its small working groups, he said, should be "a protected space where the Church experiences the action of the Holy Spirit."
In a spirit of prayer, Francis said, the Spirit will speak through "everyone who allows themselves to be guided by God, who always surprises us, by God who reveals to the little ones that which he has hidden from the wise and intelligent, by God who created the Sabbath for men and women and not vice versa, by God who leaves the 99 sheep to find the one missing sheep, by God who is always greater than our logic and our calculations."