Pope Francis has appealed to participants in an Extraordinary Synod on the Catholic family - not to discuss beautiful and clever ideas - or to compete to see who is more intelligent.

The Pontiff's comments are being interpreted as a reprimand to senior Cardinals - who have been debating publicly about whether divorced Catholics - who remarry in civil ceremonies - should be allowed to receive Holy Communion.

Presiding over the Synod's opening mass in St Peter's Basilica in Rome, Pope Francis set the tone he hopes participants will adopt over the next fortnight and in a similar Synod next year.

About 200 cardinals and senior bishops as well as 50 others, including 14 married couples, attended today's gathering.

A questionnaire by the Pontiff circulated globally online has confirmed that many Catholics have gone their own way on sexual and familial issues like contraception, pre-marital sex and divorce.

Pope Francis urged those in attendance to take a creative, humble approach to help the Church understand why such a gap has opened up between the hierarchy and much of the faithful.

He said: "Synods are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent".

He continued: "God's dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants.

"We can thwart his dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit who gives us that wisdom which surpasses knowledge, and enables us to work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity".

The gathering is expected to discuss issues such as divorce, contraception and homosexuality and additional problems confronting developing world churches, such as polygamy and child marriages.

Last month Cardinal Walter Kasper who has been campaigning for change, accused some cardinals of seeking a "doctrinal war" whose ultimate target is Pope Francis.

Responding to these claims last week the arch-Conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke said that Cardinal Kasper was urging a direction which the church has never taken before.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is representing the Irish Bishops at the Synod.

Read a blog by RTÉ's Religious and Social Affairs Correspondent Joe Little - Bishops to gather for Synod among unrest in Catholic Church