Pope Francis relaxes church rules on divorce

Pope Francis delivering a message at the end Easter mass at the Vatican on March 27
Pope Francis delivering a message at the end Easter mass at the Vatican on March 27

Pope Francis today made public the conclusions of his two synods about family, in a document eagerly awaited by 1.3 billion Roman Catholics. The Papal document has been prepared for perfection for two years after holding two council meetings called synods. The 256 document termed as an Apostolic Exhortation entitled ‘The Joy of Love’ paves way for new integration into the Roman Catholic church for divorced Catholics but does little to soften the church strict views on hot topics like gay marriage, abortion and contraception.

He called for the Roman Catholic Church to be more welcoming and less judgmental, and he seemingly signaled a pastoral path for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive holy communion. Observing the diversity and complexity of a global church, Francis effectively pushes decision making to bishops and priests, stating that a different country or region can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs.On the other hand Francis also made clear the vision he wants local bishops and priests to follow: as a church that greets families with empathy and comfort rather than with unbending rules and rigid codes of conduct. And he dedicates much of one chapter to discussing the manner in which priests can exercise in helping people who do not meet the church’s ideal of marriage. He calls for priests to welcome single parents, gay people and unmarried straight couples who are living together, even as he declares that same-sex unions should not be equated with marriage.

“A pastor cannot feel that it is enough to simply apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives,” he wrote in the document.

 He further admitted that the church has made mistakes in alienating families and dedicates many passages to describing the pressures brought on families by poverty, migration, drug abuse and violence.

BBCs correspondent Caroline Wyatt, says the lengthy document shows exactly where Pope Francis stands as he steps into the minefield of Catholic teaching on the family.


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