Cardinals explore ministry to divorced and remarried

Ministry to divorced and remarried Catholics was high on the agenda at a meeting of 150 cardinals from around the world.

After a consistory on February 20-21, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said the cardinals’ discussions had focussed mainly on three topics.

These were the Christian vision of people and family life, pastoral support for families and ministry to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Synods in October this year and next year will address similar family-related themes.

Retired German Cardinal Walter Kasper gave a two-hour opening presentation to the consistory, laying out the biblical and theological basis of Church teaching on marriage.

He also emphasised the challenge of finding ways to remain faithful to Jesus’ words about the indissolubility of marriage as well as embodying the mercy God always shows to those who have sinned or fallen short.

Several cardinals spoke about the Church’s process for granting annulments and possible ideas for improving the process or simplifying it.

Other cardinals, Fr Lombardi said, spoke about the desire of some divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to be able to receive Communion even though they have not received an annulment.

“The discussion was very interesting, very broad, very serene,” the spokesman said.

“No decisions were made,” but there was “a clear commitment to finding the best way to keep together fidelity to Christ’s words and mercy in the life of the Church.”

Cardinal Kasper told reporters that Pope Francis had asked him to pose questions to the cardinals to prompt a debate.

“We cannot change the doctrine,” Cardinal Kasper said. “It’s a question of applying the doctrine to concrete situations.”

He cited a case with which he was involved regarding a remarried Catholic mother whose daughter was preparing for her first Communion, but the woman couldn’t receive Communion because her first marriage wasn’t annulled.

“The mother wants to live the faith. She educated her daughter in the faith. She went to Confession because her marriage had failed. But is not a remission of sin possible in this case?” the cardinal asked.

As a bishop in Germany in the 1990s, Kasper had tried to institute a policy that would allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion in certain circumstances, but this was rejected by Rome.

In opening the consistory, Pope Francis said the Church needs a “pastoral” approach that is “intelligent, courageous and full of love” and not focused on abstract arguments.


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