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Support for remarried divorcees in Europe

A new initiative in favour of increased rights for Catholic remarried divorcees has been launched in Austria's Salzburg archdiocese.

The Tablet reports that the initiator, Paul Ganahl, a former conservative member of Parliament, says it is hypocritical of the Church to demand that remarried divorcees continue to pay church tax - which is compulsory for all Catholics in Austria - while not permitting them to go to Communion, be godparents or members of parish councils.

This is especially hard on the innocent partners of a divorce, he argued. Ganahl estimated that there are some 500,000 Catholic remarried divorcees in Austria, comprising 10%-15% of the Catholic population. He said that, "although the Church treats them as second-class Christians", they pay something in the order of $A42 million in church tax per annum. In view of the fact that the percentage of remarried divorcees could increase to between 30 and 40 per cent in the coming years, the issue is of prime importance, Ganahl says.

The initiative is intended to inform Catholics of the rights of remarried divorcees in the different Austrian dioceses at the moment, and, together with bishops and priests, find an "honest, dignified and practicable" way of allowing them to receive Communion and take on more responsibilities in the Church under certain circumstances.