The Syrian Catholic Patriarch of Antioch says his region’s families are ‘divided’ and ‘torn’ and this tragic situation can sometimes leave bishops and patriarchs feeling helpless.

Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Younan expressed this at the Holy See Press Office this afternoon during a briefing on the fourth day of the Synod of Bishops, underway through Oct. 25, on the topic “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World.” Also speaking were Vatican Press Office director, Father Federico Lombardi, Ghanaian Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle, and Italian Cardinal Edoardo Menichelli of Ancona-Osimo.

In his remarks, delivered in French, Patriarch Younan spoke on the situation of families and the Christian community in the Middle East. “It is a catastrophe,” especially the hostage situation, the Patriarch lamented, saying the problem has been “dragging on.”

 “Our families are divided and torn,” he said, noting they are doing all in their power to get out of this situation in Iraq and Syria. “As bishops and pastors, we are here to help, but sometimes we feel helpless in this tragic situation.”

“We try to make this voice [of those suffering in Iraq and Syria] be heard,” he said. “It is a cry, a cry of alarm.”

Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Ghana began by explaining that the Catholic Church in Africa is broken into eight regional conferences and 37 episcopal conferences and noting how they’ve been preparing for the synod locally. He underscored that the mission of the African bishops is the future of the family.

During the time for questions, a reporter asked how well the synod addresses universal issues. The African archbishop responded, “I think the Synod is more universal in its approach than we assume.”

But he did go on to note: “Sometimes, whatever we feel good about in Africa, is not good enough for European media. They only care if it’s black news [the negative]. Even when we are contributing something beautiful, it is not reported.”

“We are here from Africa, in great numbers, contributing very validly to what is being discussed,” the archbishop stated, adding, “I can give you this assurance.”

The small-group discussions have continued and continue this afternoon, Fr. Lombardi noted.

Speaking about the circles themselves, Cardinal Menichelli said that the atmosphere is “open-minded” and “frank” and that the prelates have great freedom as they, within their small language groups, look closely at the first part of the Instrumentum Laboris.