Pope tells priests to welcome divorced Catholics

Pope Benedict XVI has said that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics who suffer because they cannot receive Communion must be welcomed in parishes as Catholics who witness to the importance of the Eucharist.

At the same time, he said, if a priest, acting out of compassion for their suffering, gives them the Eucharist, he risks undermining the dignity and indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage.

"We all know that this is a particularly painful situation," the pope said on Monday during a meeting with about 140 priests, religious and deacons from the Valle d'Aosta region where he was vacationing.

Catholic News Service reports that the pope added that he knew the issue could get complicated and said, "Given these people's situation of suffering it must be studied."

The meeting, which was closed to the press, lasted about two hours. The pope's opening remarks and responses to questions from the priests were transcribed and published yesterday in the Vatican newspaper.

"The pope is not a prophet," he told the priests. "He is infallible in very rare circumstances, as we all know."

Therefore, he said, in trying to find ways to spread the Gospel, to strengthen the faith of Catholics and to help the suffering, "I share your questions. I, too, suffer."

Asked specifically about ministry to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, Pope Benedict told the priests, "None of us has a ready-made solution, including because each person's situation is different."

"I would say that a particularly painful situation is that of those who were married in the church, but were not really believers and did so just for tradition, and then finding themselves in a new, nonvalid marriage, convert, find the faith and feel excluded from the sacrament," he said.

Pope Benedict said that when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he asked several bishops' conferences and experts to study the problem, which in effect was "a sacrament celebrated without faith."

He said he had thought that the church marriage could be considered invalid because the faith of the couple celebrating the sacrament was lacking.

"But from the discussions we had, I understood that the problem was very difficult" and that further study was necessary, he said.

Divorced Catholics must be welcomed in parishes, pope tells priests (Catholic News Service 27/7/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the reception of Holy Communion by the divorced and remarried members of the faithful (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith)
Pope John Paul II: Pastoral Care of Divorced and Remarried (24/1/97)

100 days of Benedict the XVI (ABC Radio The Religion Report 27/7/05)
Pope says churches in West look to be dying (Reuters 27/7/05)
Pope: Divorces-remarried and sacraments an issue to be studied (AGI 27/7/05)
Israel blasts Pope; Vatican responds (Catholic World News 27/7/05)
Persevere despite suffering, Pope urges priests (Catholic World News 27/7/05)
Al Qaeda now threatens Rome (Denlafoe 27/7/05)
John Hanchette: Mountain views: New Pope to turn back the clock on reforms in Catholic Church? (Niagra Falls Reporter)
Israel Denounces Pope's Angelus Address (Zenit 26/7/05)
Israel Cancels Meeting With Vatican (Zenit 26/7/05)

28 Jul 2005