Pope Francis Urges Priests to Welcome Remarried Catholics - The New York Times

August 7, 2015

ROME — In brief remarks on Wednesday, Pope Francis offered a comforting word for divorced Catholics and their children, urging priests to welcome and foster these families with “doors wide open.”

In remarks to his general audience, his first after a summer break, he reminded priests that divorced Catholics who remarry are not pariahs. “People who started a new union after the defeat of their sacramental marriage are not at all excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way,” Francis said. “Though their unions are contrary to the sacrament of marriage, the church, as a mother, seeks the good and salvation of all her children.”

Conceding that there was no easy way to resolve the conflict between divided families and the Roman Catholic Church’s stance on divorce, Francis told priests to be merciful and to encourage such families to participate in church life as much as possible.

Never veering from church doctrine, Francis’ words, spoken in his usual compassionate tone, sounded like a signal to the bishops, cardinals and church leaders who will attend a special meeting on the family at the Vatican in October, Vatican experts said.

Many remarried Catholics have taken comfort in the pope’s remarks since his installation, hoping that restrictions on their participation in church rituals might be eased.

“This is not a new indication,” said Carlo Marroni, a Vatican expert at the Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore. “He is saying what the Gospel says; he is welcoming to everybody. He did not mention the possibility to open the confession or the communion to them.”

Despite Francis’ encouraging words, the Catholic Church is not expected to change on fundamental issues like marriage. Last week, the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, reaffirmed church doctrine and called marriage “a lifelong covenant of love and fidelity between a man and a woman” in a letter to the Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention in Philadelphia.

In May, Cardinal Parolin called the results of a referendum that made same-sex marriage legal in Ireland a “defeat for humanity.” In his letter to the Knights of Columbus, he said, “Today, when the institution of marriage is under attack from powerful cultural forces, the faithful are called to bear witness to this basic truth of biblical faith and natural law, which is essential to the wise and just ordering of society.”

Some analysts say that despite the opposition of Vatican conservatives, Francis may try to push for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive holy communion again. Catholics who divorce after a church marriage but do not remarry can receive communion.

This year and last, the church has closely focused on the theme of family, raising issues that have alienated followers in Europe as well as in the United States. For three weeks in October, church leaders will debate social issues like divorce, same-sex civil unions and single parents. At last year’s meeting, bishops issued a document calling on the church to welcome gay people and divorced and unmarried couples.

Source: Pope Francis Urges Priests to Welcome Remarried Catholics - The New York Times