Domenica, 21 Ottobre 2018

Communion for divorcees mulled before papal conclave


(By Giovanna Chirri)

Vatican City, March 8 - The sensitive issue of
whether or not to administer communion to divorced and remarried
Catholics is likely to be on the agenda of the cardinals meeting
in the pre-conclave general congregations this week.
The office of the pope had been tasked with finding a new
approach to the matter even during the congregations leading up
to then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's election in 2005, as
Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini has written.
And though Ratzinger granted constant attention to the
issue during his papacy as Benedict XVI, he failed to find a
solution before stepping down last month; thus, thousands of
couples risk leaving the Church once and for all.
Bishops the world over are well aware of this. The matter
was brought up in every bishops synod during Benedict's papacy,
including the last one in the autumn of 2012.
While the Church would like to prevent Catholics in their
second marriages from feeling excluded, the couples have
nevertheless violated the indissoluble pact of marriage.
Cardinals from countries with an ancient Christian
tradition that has been secularized over the centuries, such as
Europeans and North Americans, have been grappling with the
issue for some time.
The oldest bishop of the upcoming conclave, Walter Kasper,
is in his eighties and was one of a group of German bishops who
sought to get Catholics barred from communion more involved in
the Church.
Kasper, who was at the time the bishop of Stuttgart, signed
a declaration alongside Freiburg bishop Oskar Saier and Mainz
bishop and head of the German Episcopal Conference Karl Lehmann
recommending that communion be administered to divorcees after a
pastoral and penitential process.
The declaration was opposed by the Congregation for the
Doctrine of Faith then under Cardinal Ratzinger's leadership.
In the first summer after becoming pope, at a meeting with
a number of priests from the northwest region of Valle d'Aosta,
the German pope spoke of the 'suffering' of divorcees who had
remarried, saying that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith had received many reports from episcopal conferences on
this issue.
In particular, Benedict cited the case of those wed in
religious ceremonies due to cultural conventions, but who later
separated and grew closer to religion and then remarried.
In meeting with the Valle d'Aosta priests, Benedict XVI
noted the experience of Orthodox churches, which do allow second
marriages, but said that at times the cases were not treated
with sufficient seriousness.
Clear at a theological level and in all of its practical
implications, the issue of the divorced and subsequently
remarried is one to which European episcopacies are especially
It is a 'pastoral' one par excellence, and will be a
priority for the new pope, even if he is not known as a 'pastor'
and even if he is not European.

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