Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Divorced and remarried couples "are not excommunicated" and "should never be treated as such: they are always part of the Church." This was the warm and heartfelt appeal that Pope Francis addressed today to about 12 thousand faithful gathered in the Paul VI Hall for the resumption of the cycle of catechesis on the family, which he dedicated today to the "care of those who, following the irreversible collapse of their marriage bond, have embarked on a new union. " "No closed doors. No closed doors – he repeated. “Everyone can participate in some form in the life of the Church, everyone can be part of the community. The Church [...] is the Father's house where there is room for every body and their life's hardships (ibid., N. Evangelii Gaudium, n. 47) ".
The theme of welcoming divorced and remarried people (and their participation in the Eucharist) has been the focus of a heated debate and opposing opinions since before the Extraordinary Synod on the Family held last year, and one that continues to create tensions in preparation for the Synod next October.
With tenderness and decision, the Pope addressed the issue head-on . "The Church - he said - is well aware that such a situation [those who are divorced and remarried - ed] contradicts the Christian sacrament. However, her gaze always draws from her mother's heart; a heart, animated by the Holy Spirit, She always looks for the good and the salvation of people. That's why She feels it her duty, "for the sake of truth," to "discern situations ''. Citing St. John Paul II he recalled "the difference between those who have suffered the separation compared to those who caused it." But above all, he asked all Christians to look at "these new bonds through the eyes of young children." This very issue was highlighted again at the last Synod, where many expressed their concern over the lack of religious education that would affect the children of these couples if they remain on the margins of church life.
"With the eyes of a child - the Pope explained - we see more clearly how urgent it is that we develop in our communities a real welcome for the people living these situations. It is therefore important that the style of the community, its language, its attitudes, are always attentive to people, strating with the little ones. They are the ones who suffer most from these situations.
Moreover, how can we ask these parents to do everything possible to educate their children in the Christian life, by giving them the example of a faith believed and practiced, if we distance them from the life of the community? As if they were excommunicated. You must make sure not to add to the burdens children in these situations already have to bear! Unfortunately, the number of these children is really great. It is important that they feel the Church to be a caring mother for everyone and always willing to listen, and welcome".
He also pointed out that in these times "the Church has been neither insensitive nor lazy", rather "there is a growing awareness that we need a fraternal and cordial welcome, love and truth, towards the baptized who have established a new cohabitation after the failure of their sacramental marriage; in fact, these people are not excommunicated, - they have not been excommunicated! - And they should never be treated as such: They are always part of the Church. "
The invitation to the Christian community is to welcome and encourage these couples "that they may live and develop more and more the awareness that they belong to Christ and the Church through prayer, by listening to the Word of God, by frequent participation in the liturgy, with the 'Christian education of their children, with love and service to the poor, with the commitment to justice and peace". It should be noted that the list of "ways" of how these couples can participate in the life of the Church did not mention participating in the Eucharist, although it did mention "particiapting in the liturgy."
For the pope, the welcoming attitude of the Church must follow in that of the Good Shepherd, whose icon "summarizes the mission that Jesus received from the Father to give his life for his sheep. This attitude is a model for the Church, which welcomes her children like a mother who gives her life for them. "
"In the same way - he concluded - all Christians are called to imitate the Good Shepherd. Especially Christian families, may they collaborate with him by taking care of wounded families, accompanying them in the life of the faith community. Each person plays his or her part in following the attitude of the Good Shepherd, who knows each of His sheep and excludes no-one from his infinite love. "
During the greetings in various languages, Pope Francis also mentioned communities from China. At that very moment a group of Chinese pilgrims stood up, waving the flag of mainland China and sang the "Our Father" in Chinese.