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SALT LAKE CITY & mdash; The Vatican is taking the unusual step of conducting a worldwide survey on how parishes deal with sensitive issues such as contraception, divorce and gay couples.
The survey, called the Synod of the Family, asks how priests minister to same-sex couples and their children — and to men and women living together outside of marriage.
The poll was sent in mid-October to every national bishops conference with instructions to get the widest possible response. The information is for a major meeting on the family that Pope Francis plans next year.
A U.S. bishops' spokeswoman told The Associated Press the document is authentic and each bishop will decide how to get input.
In England, bishops posted the survey online asking church members to participate.
This comes as a surprise to many. It's the first time a pope has asked Catholics around the world for their comments on controversial issues within the church.
"I think it's a sign of the changing culture of the church which Pope Francis has definitely been pretty strongly emphasizing since the beginning of his papcy," said Kevin Priest, a member of the Catholic Church.
A life-long devoted Catholic, Jaime Luna, believes the survey could bring former Catholics back to the church.
"It's going to make us think about how really feel about a lot of these issues and not only that but put them into writing," Luna said.
The surveys are all due Dec. 15.