UK Catholic bishops offer olive branch to divorcees
Churchwide momentum grows for a more welcoming attitude
- John Bingham for The Telegraph
- United Kingdom
- December 30, 2013
Roman Catholic bishops have offered an olive branch to divorcees and single parents urging priests and parishioners to do more to welcome those not in “conventional family situations”.
The call, in a series of letters read at services, comes ahead of a major gathering in Rome next year which will discuss the possibility of relaxing the ban on remarried divorcees receiving Holy Communion as part of a reassessment of the Church’s response to sweeping changes to family life.
The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Bernard Longley, was among a series of British bishops who issued pastoral letters to mark the Feast of the Holy Family – which honours Mary and Joseph – calling for greater “understanding and compassion” within the Church for those faced with marital breakdown.
Pope Francis has played down hopes in some quarters of major doctrinal changes but repeatedly spoken of a need not to “judge” people and warned against being “obsessed” with issues such as gay marriage, abortion and contraception.
He recently spoke about finding “another way” of treating divorcees who remarry.
Last month he sent out a questionnaire to Catholics across the world to canvas opinion on how best to deal with issues such as gay marriage, growing numbers of divorcees in the pews and single parent families.
It followed the announcement of a special Synod of Bishops to be convened in Rome in October to discuss the Church’s approach to family life in the 21st century. Pope Francis singled out next year’s Synod during his Sunday address in St Peter’s Square, urging the faithful to pray for its work.
Archbishop Longley spoke of the “difficult circumstances” faced by Mary and Joseph in a letter read out at services in his archdiocese.
“The example of the Holy Family and their experiences of misunderstanding and rejection remind us of the need for understanding and compassion – especially for those who have experienced a breakdown of family life or who may have become estranged from their closest relatives,” he said.
“The family of the parish must always offer a place of welcome for those who no longer find themselves in stable or conventional family situations.
“As a New Year beckons we should be slow to judge and quick to embrace those who are afraid to cross the threshold of the Church because they fear they are not perfect.”
Source: The Telegraph