Pope Francis softens stance on divorcees

Pope Francis yesterday issued a major proclamation on family life which appears to open up the possibility of divorced or remarried people receiving Holy Communion.

Entitled ‘Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love: On Love in the Family’, the Apostolic Exhortation was broadly welcomed by senior church figures here, but was criticised by gay and lesbian rights groups for its failure to alter Rome’s approach to same-sex relationships, among other issues.

The 260-page document calls for a more compassionate approach towards “imperfect” Catholics, including those who divorced and remarried.

Currently divorced Catholics cannot receive communion as their first marriage is still seen as valid in the eyes of the Church.

But in the publication, Pope Francis said: “No one can be condemned forever because that is not the logic of the Gospel. Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.”

However, while the Pope stressed that homosexuals should be respected, he reiterated the Church’s view that there are “no grounds” to view same-sex unions as similar to heterosexual marriages.

“Every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration,” he said.

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) said the Pope’s latest publication had failed to address specific views within the Catholic Church.

It tweeted: “Another missed opportunity to tackle architecture of homophobia & transphobia at the #Vatican today by @Pontifex”, referring to the Pope’s Twitter handle. Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said the document could not be pigeonholed, while Archbishop Eamon Martin, Primate of All Ireland, said: “The document has a warm, distinctive and familiar style that speaks to the reality of ordinary life. It is very much in tune with the concrete realities of everyday life as lived by married couples and families.

“The document reflects the vision of Pope Francis in that we cannot resort to doctrine without considering the complexities of married life. The content is also challenging, and includes a call for all of us to reflect on how we live our lives.

“The Church is now asked to go out and bring the gospel to where people are at in their lives, this is in line with Pope Francis’ agenda which encourages every Catholic to be a missionary for the faith. As a Church we are used to inviting people to come to us, but from today Pope Francis urges us to reach out and offer support, at a local level, for those preparing for marriage and for those on the journey of married life.”

Reacting to the publication, Bishop Kevin Doran said: “As most people will expect, there are no fundamental changes in the essential teaching of the Church about marriage, because that is rooted in natural law and the teaching of Jesus himself.

“What is very noticeable, however, is the strongly pastoral tone of the letter. The focus is on how the Church can support men and women in living the commitments of their marriage and especially how the Church can walk with them in difficult moments, helping them to ‘reach the fullness of God’s plan for them’.”

The document also provides tips to young couples on how to develop their relationship through shared daily rituals, including the sharing of household chores, trips away and even staging parties.


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