While attending the Pontifical Council for the Family’s 21st Plenary Assembly in October, Christendom College president Dr. Timothy O’Donnell met with Pope Francis at an exclusive audience for members of the council. O’Donnell, who is an official consulter to the council, said that he found his personal encounter with the pope to be a very moving experience.
“He really is so personable,” O’Donnell said. “I was so moved by him—seeing him as someone who deeply loves family life. My wife, Cathy, was there with me and she brought a photo of our family, which [Pope Francis] held and blessed.”
At the assembly, Cardinals, bishops, and scholars convened to discuss a wide range of topics on the family, such as the role of the State in recognizing marriage. Pope Francis also gave the council a special assignment: to draft a document of thoughts and concerns on the state of the family to be presented to the bishops at their 2014 synod, which will focus on the family.
O’Donnell led the discussion of the English speaking countries on the family, which will be the basis for the document to be presented to the synod. Appointed by the council, O’Donnell will draft a report based on the insights of the English speaking countries and submit it to the Vatican.
O’Donnell, who was appointed as a consulter to the Council by Pope John Paul II in 2002, and then re-appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, said that the assembly was a great opportunity to experience the Catholicity of the Church.
“So many countries were represented and it was wonderful to be of service to the Holy Father in this crucial area where there is so much misunderstanding and confusion in our society,” O’Donnell said. “Anytime someone tries to change what a family is—a mom, a dad, kids—it is unacceptable.”