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Pope Francis: welcome with compassion those who have remarried outside the Church

August 05, 2015

Following a month-long hiatus, Pope Francis resumed his Wednesday general audience on August 5 and called for a compassionate welcome to those who have remarried outside the Church.

In doing so, he made no mention of the upcoming Synod of Bishops nor of the controversial proposal to admit those in such situations to Holy Communion.

Citing statements on the same topic by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, the Holy Father said that the Church should reach out to help those who are in irregular marital situations, aware that there are no "simple solutions" to their problems. Although the Church cannot approve of their marriages, they are "not excommunicated, by any means," he said, and the Church must help them.

“The Church knows well that such a situation contradicts the Christian sacrament,” Pope Francis told those assembled in Paul VI Audience Hall. The Church, he said, looks upon those in such situations with a maternal heart and “always looks for the good and the salvation of persons.”

Citing St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (no. 84), Pope Francis said that the Church must distinguish between those who caused the breakup of the initial marriage and those who endured it.

Looking at the situation through the eyes of the young children of the new union, Pope Francis spoke of the “urgency of developing in our community a real welcome toward the persons who are living in such situations,” with a careful attention to “language” and “attitudes.”

If we “hold them at a distance from the life of the community, as if they were excommunicated,” the Pope added, how will the children be raised in the faith?

Pope Francis praised his predecessors’ efforts to reach out to those in such situations and cited a growing awareness that “we need a fraternal and attentive hospitality, in love and in truth, towards the baptized” who have established a new union.

Calling upon all members of the Church to manifest the attitude of the Good Shepherd, Pope Francis said pastors should “manifest openly and consistently the community's willingness to welcome” those in such unions, “that they may live and develop more” in their “belonging to Christ and the Church through prayer, through listening to the Word of God, through frequenting the liturgy, through the Christian education of children, through love and service to the poor, through the commitment to justice and peace.”


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  • Posted by: - Aug. 08, 2015 11:27 PM ET USA

    The children in these situations suffer greatly because of the breakup of marriages. In some cases there is custodial interference and/or visitation rights so the children don't get to see either the mother or the father. The parties involved need to be considerate of the children's rights.

  • Posted by: FredC - Aug. 06, 2015 1:56 PM ET USA

    The re-married can receive Holy Communion if they live chastely (as brother and sister) -- after Confession of course. Many people so live -- and it gets easier as they get older.

  • Posted by: brenda22890 - Aug. 06, 2015 9:56 AM ET USA

    Jesus taught what constitutes adultery, and that divorce was allowed by Moses only because of "hard hearts". I also know he did not reject the woman at the well because of her "life style", but as always, invited her to repent and change her life. Pope Francis, and anyone else aside, this is really all we have to know.

  • Posted by: unum - Aug. 05, 2015 6:31 PM ET USA

    Pope Francis is clearly speaking about the attitudes of both clergy and laity in our Catholic communities toward divorced and remarried Catholics. There are no references to dogma or canon law in this communication. His call to replace legalism with love, the love of the Good Shepherd for his sheep is long overdue and the Church needs to reach out to our separated brothers and sisters. That would be a step forward while it reforms its legalistic administration of the care of its flock.

  • Posted by: ElizabethD - Aug. 05, 2015 9:33 AM ET USA

    It would be easy for people to misunderstand this as meaning "divorced and remarried may receive Communion, no problem" because people do not know what "excommunicated" means. Certainly they should be welcomed, and it's true they are not excommunicated, but they cannot receive Holy Communion, and as this article notes, Pope Francis is not saying that they can.

  • Posted by: feedback - Aug. 05, 2015 7:50 AM ET USA

    Pope Francis sees and continues to address what some Catholics don't see, or would prefer not to address. His heart is the heart of a caring father.