Are big changes coming to the Catholic Church? Pope Francis finally wraps up anticipated document on controversial family issues -- UPDATE: To be released on April 8
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The Holy Father has, at last, finalized his "one-and-a-half years in the making" Apostolic Post-Synod Exhortation. The highly anticipated educational document on the family's role in the church, titled "Amoris Laetitia" (meaning Joy of Love), will be published on April 8 and is expected to cause some major waves.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis has become recognized for some of his unconventional practices as pope, and his newest writings may further push him into that role of the "modern-day pontiff."
"This the most important test for this pope to show us how he deals with dissent in the Church, how he deals with divided issues," said Massimo Faggioli, a Church historian who directs the Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic school in St. Paul, according to The Washington Post.
Since the launch of discussions over the "practicalities" within the Catholic church's different families, there have been two very important Synods with top bishops of the church and countless rumors surrounding the pope's unique position on the matters.
At the conclusion of the October 2015 Synod on the Family, the attending bishops presented a lengthy document to the pope with intentions of advising him on the direction to take with his exhortation.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, "That document notably recommended a significant softening of the church's practice toward those who have divorced and remarried."
Pope Francis' document should sum up all the discussions of the synod, but no one knows which direction the unpredictable Argentine pope will take. He could restate the bishops' thoughts without touching on the most controversial aspects directly, or he could completely produce an entirely new document, throwing out the synod fathers' statements.
Nonetheless, the majority of predictions agree there will be some explanations over divorced and remarried Catholics and receiving Holy Communion.
"The document will identify the current stresses on family life from poverty, migration, and war, as well as the hostile legal and cultural framework of contemporary Western society, which Francis calls 'ideological colonization,'" stated Francis' biographer Austen Ivereigh to 'Our Sunday Visitor.' "The exhortation will be an uplifting tribute to the enduring power and beauty of family life, offering support and consolation to those struggling against fierce contemporary headwinds to hold families together."
During the Synods, the bishops agreed that families do need an increased focus in the church, but there was a clear division when topics of Communion for the divorced and remarried and how the LGBT community should be addressed arose.
"I expect the papal document to be a typical Bergoglio combination of challenge and encouragement," said Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia, using Francis' family name, according to National Catholic Reporter. "This pope has a strange ability to say things which can be quite searing but end up being heartening."
"If the pope can get the mix of encouragement and challenge right, he'll be the unifier that Peter is meant to be, leading us beyond ideological dogfights and confirming us in the faith."
Pope Francis' addressing of the topics of divorced and remarried Catholics has become "the most important moment in the Church in the last 50 years. This was the biggest sign of hope that in the Catholic Church there are ideas, and we can talk about it. No one before Francis ever had the courage to think about that," according to Faggioli.
According to Vatican journalist, Luigi Accattoli "rumors foresee a text of no striking doctrinal or juridical affirmations, but rather will include many innovative practical choices regarding marriage preparation and couples in irregular situations: not only for the divorced and remarried but also for cohabiters, marriages with a believer and non-believer and for those only civilly-married."
"In three years, there is a lot he has accomplished. But there is a lot he has not accomplished," Faggioli expressed.
What the pope does next with the Synods and the ending document is "one of the most important moments in his pontificate, and how he gets out of this moment of fierce disagreement, [what] comes out of that will say a lot."
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