Pope Francis calls on church to welcome divorced Catholics- Detroit Free Press

Pope Francis celebrates a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis celebrates a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis has said the church must be more merciful and open, and he has encouraged debate on changing pastoral practices to allow, for example, divorced and remarried Catholics to take communion. By David Gibson, Religion News Service

Speaking out on one of the most contentious issues of his papacy, Pope Francis on Wednesday issued a powerful call for the church to embrace Catholics who have divorced and remarried, telling a gathering at the Vatican that such couples "are not excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way!"

"They always belong to the church," he added, calling on pastors to welcome Catholics who have remarried without an annulment, even though such Catholics are currently barred in most cases from receiving the Eucharist, the central sacrament of the faith.

"The church is called to be always the open house of the Father … no closed doors! No closed doors!" Francis told the crowd at his weekly public audience, which resumed after a month-long summer break.

Since he was elected in 2013, Francis has said that the church must be more merciful and open, and he has encouraged debate on changing pastoral practices to allow, for example, divorced and remarried Catholics to take communion.

That issue was one of several that inflamed unusually public debates at a major Vatican summit of bishops that the pope convened last October, and the arguments — including how to welcome gay couples and those who are cohabiting — have continued to engage top churchmen in pointed exchanges ahead of a follow-up summit, called a synod, set for October.

Many Vatican observers believe Francis wants to see some concrete changes, which his foes believe would be tantamount to heresy because it would undermine Jesus' teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.

The issue of how to treat divorced and remarried Catholics is just one of many the bishops will debate, but it is a widespread pastoral problem and has come to stand for the bigger question of how, and even whether, the Catholic Church can change.

Francis himself has not endorsed any particular proposal, and in focusing on the topic on Wednesday he reiterated that "there is no easy solution for these situations."

But he made it clear that he wanted the Catholic Church to take a new, more open approach.

"If we look at these new bonds (of remarried Catholics) with the eyes of small children – and the children do watch," he said, "we see once again the urgency of developing in our communities a real welcome for people in such situations."

The children are the ones who suffer most when their parents are shunned, Francis said.

How can the church, he wondered, "tell these parents to do everything to raise their children as Christians, giving them an example of a firm and practiced faith, if we keep them at arm's length from the community, as if they were excommunicated?"

The church, he concluded, "must do everything not to add further burdens to those that children in these situations must already bear!"

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  1. almayasabdam says:
     
    The Pope is not talking any extra terrestrial language. He is speaking plain commonsense. The whole church knows that divorce and remarriage don't excommunicate a member. But the church prelates and the clergy always dealt with them as though they had done something unpadardonable. It is alright that Jesus has said something about marriage union that the situation and the people he lived with needed at that time. Paul also said so many things for the different groups of believers of his time. That doesn't mean that they are eternal norms to be observed until the end of the world. Besides, what does the clergy and the bishops know about the living conditions of married life, its social, psychological, sexual and other hundred aspects that married couples face de facto.



    Denying communion to divorced and remarried couples was a diabolical act on the part of the arrogant clergy. That was started when the belief in transubstantiation, whatever it meant, and the bread and wine were  taken for actual flesh and blood of Jesus, of chich the clergy assumed the role of custodians. Now no sensible man cherish such fantacies but the Eucharist is meant to be taken as a symbol of life sharing in daily life, that is breaking bread in the literal sense.



    With the majority of the clergy, like those in India, who are unable to think with Jesus and believe any change in the status quo would be tantamount to heresy because it would undermine Jesus' teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and that of the church on bread and wine becoming flesh and blood of the Lord, Pope Francis will have a hard time in the coming synod.

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