Building bridges: Priests, parishioners asked to welcome those not in 'conventional family situations'
Calls made for better pastoral care for those in need
Pope Francis in his brief time as leader of the Catholic Church, has warned against being obsessed with only hot button issues such as gay marriage, abortion and contraception. While downplaying any major doctrinal changes, the pope has reiterated that the church can not be defined by what it is against. In response, many in the church have begun to build bridges for those who are not in "conventional family situations."
The Catholic Church is offering an olive branch to those in unconventional family situations, emphasizing the Lord's love for all.
A special Synod of Bishops will be shortly convened in Rome in October to discuss the Church's approach to family life in the 21st century. Pope Francis singled out next year's Synod during his Sunday address in St Peter's Square, urging the faithful to pray for its work.
This new emphasis arrives on the eve of a major gathering in Rome which will discuss the possibility of relaxing the ban on remarried divorcees receiving Holy Communion. It's all part of a reassessment of the Church's response to sweeping changes to family life.
The Most Rev Bernard Longley, The Archbishop of Birmingham, was among a series of British bishops who issued pastoral letters to mark the Feast of the Holy Family, which honors Mary and Joseph. Longley called for greater "understanding and compassion" within the Church for those faced with marital breakdown.
Sending out a questionnaire to the worldwide Catholics community, Longley canvassed opinion on how best to deal with issues such as gay marriage, growing numbers of divorcees in the pews and single parent families, through a pastoral plan of care.
Longley spoke of the "difficult circumstances" faced by Mary and Joseph in a letter read out at services in his archdiocese.
"The example of the Holy Family and their experiences of misunderstanding and rejection remind us of the need for understanding and compassion - especially for those who have experienced a breakdown of family life or who may have become estranged from their closest relatives," he said.
"The family of the parish must always offer a place of welcome for those who no longer find themselves in stable or conventional family situations.
"As a New Year beckons we should be slow to judge and quick to embrace those who are afraid to cross the threshold of the Church because they fear they are not perfect."
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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