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Pope Francis' First Synod Reveals Tension Among Cardinals

Pope Francis's first synod will address a series of social issues that have long divided the Catholic Church's leaders.

Pope Francis' First Synod Reveals Tension Among Cardinals
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Pope Francis' first assembly of Roman Catholic bishops is already creating tension in the church, and it hasn't even begun.

A synod (sin-ed) of this magnitude hasn't been held in nearly 30 years. The conference is expected to take on a range of social issues, including sexuality in marriage, child-rearing, contraception and gay marriage. (Video via Rome Reports)

German Cardinal Walter Kasper already delivered a speech to a group of cardinals in February suggesting the church allow divorced Catholics to take communion, which runs counter to the views of other church leaders. (Video via Catholic News Service)

Kasper, a trusted colleague of Pope Francis, said the pope has encouraged open debate as a way to make the church healthier.

Other cardinals have seen Pope Francis's push for debate as a way to retrain church leaders. Religion News Service reports a cardinal at a February meeting said, "We’re here to learn today. It’s back to school!"

While back and forth between Cardinals leading up to the synod shows the divide within the church on controversial issues, it's not a new phenomenon.

In 2001, Cardinal Kasper debated Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (rat-singer), who would later become Pope Emeritus (e-mer-i-tus) Benedict XVI 16.

The so-called Ratzinger-Kasper debates discussed whether the church as a whole should have more power over individual dioceses or if the policies of individual dioceses should take priority over church doctrine.

And while church leaders recognize the debate during the two-week conference will be lively, they caution it should also be sensitive.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols told the National Catholic Reporter, "In the end, what we're talking about always are people's lives...we have to be dealing with these things sensitively, pastorally."

No formal proposals are expected to come from this synod. Instead, an additional synod in 2015 will be held to determine any formal changes to church doctrine.

This image includes images from Getty Images.