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Cardinal Bo hopes synod will look kindly on remarried couples

Focus more on the individual rather than rules and regulations, Myanmar prelate says

Cardinal Bo hopes synod will look kindly on remarried couples

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo smiles during a visit to the Vatican on Feb. 14 to see Pope Francis who was welcoming 20 new cardinals. (Photo by Tiziana Fabi/AFP)

Myanmar's Cardinal Charles Maung Bo hopes the upcoming synod on the family will recommend dispensation for remarried Catholics to receive Communion among other reforms.

Cardinal Bo will represent the Catholic church in Myanmar at the three-week long synod that begins at the Vatican on Oct. 4.

More than 360 participants, including 18 married couples from around the world, are expected to attend and discuss "the vocation and mission of the family in the church and in the contemporary world."

"It would be an exciting moment and a tough debate between traditionalists and reformists but there are high expectations that the church will facilitate more on rules and regulations," Cardinal Charles Bo said in an exclusive interview with ucanews.com at his residence in Yangon.

However, the 67-year-old prelate said the church would not change its teachings on abortion and same-sex marriage but would instead focus on "the individual."

"The church would focus more on the individual rather than rules and regulations, and what is sin and what is not sin."

Cardinal Bo said the church would show its mercy towards sinners since Pope Francis has said that "nobody is excommunicated, nobody is excluded from society" in the Year of Mercy.

The Year of Mercy begins on Dec. 8, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception and concludes on Nov. 20, next year on the feast of Christ the King.

"Pope Francis said that we shouldn't abandon sinners and need to show mercy. It doesn't mean that sin can be tolerated but we can show mercy and forgiveness."

This could be applied, for example, to couples that remarry. There are many cases of remarried couples remaining faithful for many years but they can't receive Communion, he said.

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"My view is that the church needs to look at these cases and allow them to receive Communion at Mass. I hope the synod will look favorably on this," he said.


Same-sex marriages

The outspoken Catholic leader said same-sex marriages are still taboo in Myanmar and that society there does not accept it.

He said God created Adam and Eve as man and woman so he believes same-sex marriage goes against the Bible and nature.

"It is not acceptable to me to legalize same-sex marriages," Cardinal Bo said.

"However, we can offer pastoral care and help bring these people to the church by showing mercy."


Family values, prayers

Cardinal Bo stressed that culture and respect still play a significant role in family life in Myanmar.

However, there are challenges that need to be addressed such as parents finding more time to communicate and spend more time with their children, he said.

"We need to give more time to family and the role of the father and mother is important since dignity is equal," Cardinal Bo said.

He pointed to a homily by Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay during November 2014 celebrations marking 500 years of Catholicism in Myanmar.

In his homily Cardinal Gracias said that families who pray together do not split and couples hold firm in their marriages.

"Family prayers here are very important. I heard the recitation of these prayers in villages when I was a child," Cardinal Bo said.

He emphasized the need for couples to prepare themselves for marriage, something which many couples don't do these days, he said.

"Even priests and nuns spend at least 10 years preparing for their vocation so couples need to prepare well such as having discussions with counselors," he said.

The "family is a domestic church so I would like to encourage young couples to prepare before marriage so that they can find mutual understanding."

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