Catholic World News

Communion for divorced/remarried not most important issue in post-Synod document, Pope tells reporters

April 18, 2016

In a question-and-answer session with reporters who accompanied him on his April 16 visit to the Greek island of Lesbos, Pope Francis acknowledged that his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia has changed the Church’s approach to the reception of Communion by Catholics who are divorced and remarried. But he stressed that the question was by no means the most important issue covered in his apostolic exhortation.

The Pope remarked that the media coverage of the Synod did not reflect the reality of the discussion. He said:

When I convoked the first Synod, the great concern of the majority of the media was whether divorced and remarried Catholics would have access to communion. And since I am not a saint, this bothered me, and also made me rather sad, because I thought, 'do you not realize that that is not the important problem? Don’t you realize that instead the family throughout the world is in crisis? The family is the basis of society. Do you not realize that the young don’t want to marry? Don’t you realize that the falling birth rate in Europe is something to cry about? Don’t you realize that the lack of work or the little work available means that a mother has to get two jobs and her children grow up alone? These are the big problems.

Questioned specifically on whether he had called for a change on Communion for divorced/remarried Catholics, the Pope replied: “I could say Yes, but it would be too brief an answer.” Instead of a direct response, he encouraged reporters to refer to the presentation of the apostolic exhortation given by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn at a Vatican press conference.

The Pope also answered several questions about immigration, and his gesture of bringing a dozen refugees back from Lesbos to live at the Vatican. “It is a small gesture,” he said. “But we must all make these little gestures—all men and women—to lend a hand to those in need.”

Pope Francis said that in selecting the families to be brought to Rome, he “did not make a choice between Christians and Muslims.” The three families chosen, he said, “had their documents in order.”

Speaking more generally about immigration, the Pope acknowledged that European nations a challenge in trying to integrate migrants into their culture. The failure to do so, he observed, can be dangerous He noted that some terrorists responsible for recent attacks in Europe “are sons and grandsons of people born in the country.”

Pope Francis told a questioner that he understood why many Europeans feel the influx of foreigners, and worry about the preservation of a cohesive culture. However he insisted that “closing borders does not solve anything.”

When questioned about his short meeting with Senator Bernie Sanders, the US presidential candidate, the Pope emphasized that it had been a quick encounter: “a handshake and nothing more, a question of politeness, not attempting to get mixed up in American politics.”


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Apr. 19, 2016 5:01 PM ET USA

    I read the critical paragraphs and footnotes of the exhortation today, as well as a plethora of recent remarks made by Cardinal Schonborn regarding the nature of the Body of Christ, the benefit of overlooking one sin in order to potentially prevent another, how "we must respect the decision to form a union with a person of the same sex", etc. On considering all of this, I believe it would have been wiser to refer to the exhortation as a "reflection" rather than as an apostolic document.

  • Posted by: k_cusick1963 - Apr. 19, 2016 8:13 AM ET USA

    When Pope Francis clarifies the real significance of Amoris Laetitia, it's encouraging. But still there is so much ambiguity to clear up with straight talk regarding the moral teachings of the Church in today's world. How does God view the personal choice to change genders? How does God view the new definition of "marriage"? The list goes on...

  • Posted by: rjbennett1294 - Apr. 19, 2016 5:52 AM ET USA

    Father Joe: "Fred, with your divorce to Mary and second civil marriage to Jane, you are committing adultery and therefore in a state of serious sin." Fred: "No Father, I don't believe I am." Father Joe: "OK....good enough for me! I'll see you at Communion on Sunday!" So now any mortal sin (murder, theft, calumny) is now subject to what the sinner "believes" to be sin? Poor St. John the Baptist.....lost his head for nothing. (A comment by "Rodger" on the Crisis Magazine website.)

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Apr. 18, 2016 6:53 PM ET USA

    He should have added that the most important problem is that marriages do not take the time they should to understand the breadth and depth of the commitment, the inevitable difficulties that will arise, and that it is a vocation. Since it is so easy to get in and get out, little need is seen to worry over the seriousness of the marriage vow. Focusing on the family is a bit late in the game since family starts with marriage.