Pope Francis has called on his bishops to meet in order to discuss same-sex relationships, divorce and contraception.
Last year, the leader of the Catholic Church directed bishops around the world to speak to their flocks about family life.
In a meeting planned for this October at the Vatican, the religious leaders will put forward their findings.
‘It is telling the pope and the Vatican what they already know. But it’s what the Vatican in the past has not wanted to hear,’ author John Thavis told the Los Angeles Times.
‘It’s strategic, but it’s also a genuine effort to find out what the voice of the church really is on this. It’s very much Pope Francis who wants less of a top-down model — the bishops preaching the rules and doctrine down to the faithful — and more of a dialogue.’
While sweeping changes are unlikely, a change in tone could certainly be possible.
Francis, who is the first Pope to come from a country with equal marriage, could be possibly be moving toward supporting same-sex civil unions.
While the pope is opposed to gay marriage, critics say he could be open to giving gay couples some legal rights as a way of legally protecting any children they may have.
The ‘extraordinary’ synod will be the first half of the two-phase process. At the second due to be held next year, the bishops will settle on new guidelines.
‘The pope is the pope, and I think we can expect that even more conservative bishops will listen to what he says,’ Thavis said.
‘In the end, it comes down to a policy that could be changed without causing people to leave the church or causing people to slam the door on the way out of the synod.’