Pope Francis, in his push to usher the church into the modern age and bring millions of latent Catholics back into the fold, said during Friday morning’s mass that the church must “accompany – not condemn” divorced people.
“When this love fails – because many times it fails – we have to feel the pain of the failure, [we must] accompany those people who have had this failure in their love. Do not condemn. Walk with them,” the Pope said in the chapel at the Vatican residence, according to Vatican Radio.
Divorce is a major point of contention in the Catholic church, which does not permit re-married people whose marriages have not been annulled to take part in Holy Communion. A majority (58%) of Catholics worldwide disagreed with this policy in a recent 12-country survey conducted by Univision.
More than a quarter of Catholic marriages – representing approximately 11 million individuals – end in divorce, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. The report noted that that figure, at 28%, is lower than the 40% of marriages that end in divorce among those with no religious affiliation.
Pope Francis raised the issue in a questionnaire submitted to dioceses around the world about family issues, including divorce and annulment, homosexuality and children being raised by gay parents, as well as pre-marital cohabitation. He called for an Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family to be held in October and, in preparation, met with eight cardinals this month to discuss family issues.
That meeting focused “80-to-90%” of its time on discussing the church’s stance on divorce, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, France, told Vatican radio.