Pope Francis broke again from traditional Catholic teachings, declaring on Wednesday that the church should do more to embrace those who follow the religion but decide to divorce then remarry.
According to existing Catholic doctrine, divorced Catholics who decide to tie the knot again are living in sin and cannot receive communion.
The pontiff on Wednesday, however, said the church should do more to welcome such couples – especially their children – insisting they are not excommunicated and should be urged to participate in church life.
Later this fall, Catholic bishops are expected to meet in the Vatican and review the policy of not giving communion to divorced and remarried parishioners, among other church teachings.
“Though their unions are contrary to the sacrament of marriage, the Church, as a mother, seeks the good and salvation of all her children,” the pope said during his general audience remarks in Rome. “As these situations especially affect children, we are aware of a great urgency to foster a true welcome for these families in our communities. For how can we encourage these parents to raise their children in the Christian life, to give them an example of Christian faith, if we keep them at arm’s length?”
The pope has parted ways from his predecessors on several issues, including climate change and gay clergy. In 2013, he asked “who am I to judge” gay people—although he has yet to take any specific action on the matter. And last year, he released an environment encyclical calling for immediate action on climate change.