John Paul II Expresses Spiritual Closeness to the Divorced

They Are Called to Join in Christian Life, Respecting Church Rules

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2003 ( John Paul II expressed his spiritual closeness to divorced Catholics, and reminded them that they are called to participate in Christian life, respecting the rules of the Church.

The Pope made his comments today when he received in audience the participants of a congress organized by «Our Lady’s Teams,» an international movement of conjugal spirituality. The congress was on the topic «Couples Called by Christ to the New Covenant.»

«I wish to repeat my spiritual proximity to all separated, divorced and divorced and remarried persons who, as baptized, are called to participate in Christian life, respecting the rules of the Church,» the Holy Father said.

Thus, John Paul II confirmed the teaching he gave in No. 84 of the apostolic exhortation «Familiaris Consortio.»

In that 1981 postsynodal document, the Pope exhorted the «pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church, for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life.»

At the same time, the exhortation requests that «the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope.»

The papal document, «based upon Sacred Scripture,» reaffirms the practice «of not admitting to eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried,» adding that «if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.»

«Reconciliation in the sacrament of penance, which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage,» the document continues.

«This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples,'» the document adds.

«Familiaris Consortio» at the same time «forbids any pastor, for whatever reason or pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry. Such ceremonies would give the impression of the celebration of a new sacramentally valid marriage, and would thus lead people into error concerning the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage.»

Lastly, in the audience given to «Our Lady’s Teams,» John Paul II expressed words of closeness to married couples experiencing difficulties and hoped that in their path they would meet with «witnesses of the tenderness and mercy of God.»

This is precisely the objective of Our Lady’s Teams, composed of 52,000 couples in 60 countries, founded in 1947 by the French priest Henri Caffarel. The centenary of his birth is being observed this year.

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