Pope Francis has declared that divorced Catholics who remarry and their children deserve better treatment from the church, and he urged clergy to avoid treating these couples as if they were excommunicated.
Catholic teaching says divorced Catholics who remarry are living in sin and are not allowed to receive Communion, leaving many feeling shunned by their church.
Pope Francis’ emphasis on mercy in church leadership has raised hope among many such Catholics he might lift the Communion ban. The Vatican is holding a month-long follow-up meeting on family issues this autumn, after a similar gathering last year left divorced Catholics who remarry hoping in vain for an end to the ban.
In his latest remarks on divorce, Francis didn’t go that far. However, he did insist the church must change its attitude.
“How do we take care of those who, following the irreversible failing of their family bond made a new union?” he said.
“People who started a new union after the defeat of their sacramental marriage are not at all excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way.”
Francis told pilgrims and tourists at his first general audience after a summer break: “They always belong to the church.”
He wondered how the church could insist children of these failed marriage be raised by their parents “with an example of convinced and practiced faith, if we keep them (the parents) far from the community life (of the church) as if they were excommunicated?”
He exhorted pastors “not to add additional weight beyond what the children in this situation have to bear”.
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