Churches that come up with their own reforms could create confusion, Vatican warns
Bishops are told to not reform faster than Pope Francis
The Vatican is warning bishops not to reform faster than Pope Francis. The archdiocese of Freiburg in Germany declared that some divorced and remarried Catholics would now be allowed to receive communion and other sacraments. Vatican spokesman Rev Federico Lombardi warned that local churches that come up with their own reforms in the meantime could create confusion.
At heart of the issue is the archdiocese of Freiburg had issued a guidebook on Monday for priests ministering to remarried Catholics.
Lombardi stressed that Francis was working with his bishops on a reform of family issues.
"In this context, offering special pastoral solutions by individuals or local offices can risk causing confusion," he said in a statement, stressing the importance of "conducting a journey in full communion with the Church community."
Argentine-born Pope Francis has rattled the Church since his election in March by focusing more on reform and forgiveness than issues such as abortion and homosexuality, where Vatican opposition to current social trends is well known. Francis is also consulting his advisers closely, and they have stressed the reform process will take some time to complete.
At heart of the issue is the archdiocese of Freiburg had issued a guidebook on Monday for priests ministering to remarried Catholics. The book detailed a way for the faithful to express remorse for their failed first marriage and receive communion and other sacraments. The unexpected initiative from Freiburg, whose Archbishop Robert Zollitsch is head of the national bishops conference, received a mixed reception in Germany.
"This is showing ways how people who take their faith seriously can again have access to full participation in the life of the Church," Alois Glueck, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics says.
A spokesman for Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx, one of the eight cardinals chosen as special advisers to the pope, called the guidebook "a contribution to an unfinished discussion" and stressed the issue must be solved by the worldwide Church.
In the past, German bishops have regularly asked the Vatican about readmitting divorced and remarried Catholics to the sacraments. Under current church teachings, the divorced faithful could still attend Mass but not receive communion.
The Frieburg guidebook stresses that Catholics seeking readmission to the sacraments should discuss their failed marriage with a priest. They are to take their faith seriously, but should decide when a second marriage was right for them and any family they have.
"Such a marriage also has a spiritual dimension because it is based on the personal belief of the partners and their participation in the life of the Church," it said.
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