Franco Origlia/Getty Images
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 19: Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he holds his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square on March 19, 2014 in Vatican City, He has mandated a synod that will take place later this year. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
The Vatican will convene a meeting of church leaders later this year to discuss the church's policy on a variety of social issues, including gay marriage. The "extraordinary synod" will take place in October, followed by a second meeting next year to issue any official changes to the Church's stance.
Last year, Pope Francis asked Catholic bishops around the world to take a survey on their views on a variety of social issues. Besides same-sex marriage, they include cohabitation, remarriage, contraception, and divorce. Those findings will be the subject of deliberation at the synod.
No sweeping changes are expected to come out of these meetings, but the very fact that they were called represent a symbolic change that gives hope to many liberal church reformers.
Jennifer Hughes, Associate Professor of History at UC Riverside. Her areas of specialty include the history of religions