On Sunday, Pope Francis wrapped up the synod, or bishops meeting, he presided over for the last two weeks with a beatification service at the Vatican for Pope Paul VI but without significant progress made on hot-button topics such as homosexuality, divorce and cohabitation.

The pope sounded a hopeful note in a sermon in St. Peter’s Square, declaring that “God is not afraid of new things.” But some of the Catholic Church’s higher-ups who voted on how the Holy See should approach these issues seemed less inclined to revise long-standing attitudes and policies. The promise of a big shift in the church’s stance on gays, which seemed imminent during a headline-grabbing moment halfway through the summit, was diminished (but not extinguished) by the end of the synod, as the Chicago Sun-Times reported:

The bishops determined gays should be “welcomed with respect and sensitivity” – a watered-down version of an initial proposal – and one that ultimately failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority vote to pass.

Nevertheless, the simple fact that dialogue and debate took place is significant.

“It’s not very that often that you see senior Catholic clerics disagreeing on fundamental issues and practices in the church,” said the Reverend Stan Chu Ilo, research fellow and assistant professor at the Center for World Catholicism & Intercultural Theology at DePaul University. “It’s a positive thing.”

It’s also not the end of the discussion, as New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan pointed out to ABC News — more meetings, and another synod, will take place over the course of the next year.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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