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  • John Thavis

Vatican official says pope's outreach to divorced Catholics well-received

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

A leading Vatican official says opposition to Pope Francis’ outreach to divorced and remarried Catholics comes from a minority that is tied to a vision of the church that “never existed.”

Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, made the comments in an interview published in the British magazine The Tablet Jan. 25. It offers an interesting look at how the debate over Communion for divorced Catholics is seen inside the pope’s own “cabinet” of Vatican advisors.

Based on information received from bishops and lay groups involved in marriage and family life around the world, Bishop Farrell said, the pope’s pastoral initiative has been “overwhelmingly well received.”

“There are some elements in the United States, on the continent of Africa, and some here in Europe – but not very strong – where they have a vision of going back to a Church that I believe never existed,” he says. “Deep down this is an ideological conflict.”

Following two sessions of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis in his 2016 document “Amoris Laetitia” opened the door to reception of Communion by Catholics who have divorced and civilly remarried, prompting public criticism by a handful of cardinals and rumblings among the Catholic hierarchy.

Cardinal Farrell’s office is charged in part with implementing “Amoris Laetitia.” In the interview, he made the rather surprising observation that his own Vatican department could be run by an non-ordained man or woman – reflecting, he said, the pope’s efforts to involve lay people more deeply in leadership roles in the church.

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