Pope Francis calls for married couples to give advice to trainee priests
Married couples will give advice to trainee priests on the complex problems faced by families under the Catholic Church's efforts to modernise.
In his new papal exhortation on family life, 'Amoris Laetitia' ['The Joy of Love'], Pope Francis said he wants clergy who are more pastorally aware and less given to judging people according to rigid doctrinal norms.
The 260-page treatise was one of the most eagerly awaited pronouncements of his pontificate.
There was much speculation over what he would say about the full re-integration into the Church of Catholics who divorce and remarry in civil ceremonies.
Under current Church teaching, they cannot receive Communion.
The Archbishops of Dublin and Armagh acknowledged yesterday that some people will be disappointed that the Pope's document offers no doctrinal change on Communion for the divorced and remarried.
However, it does seem to leave the door open to those in second unions to receive the "help of the sacraments".
"No-one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves," the Pope said.
Pope Francis reminds the faithful that Communion "is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak".
On thorny issues such as contraception, Francis stressed that a couple's individual conscience, educated in Church teaching - and not just dogmatic rules - must guide their decisions.
Archbishops Eamon and Diarmuid Martin welcomed the Pope's call for the Church to be more understanding of the modern realities challenging couples and families.
The two Irish churchmen urged people not to read the document in black and white terms, and warned that those looking for a simple 'yes or no' from the Pope on complex issues will be disappointed.
"Pope Francis's position is that of a theology which recognises human failure," Archbishop Martin of Dublin said.
And it also emerged that Irish seminarians training to be Catholic priests are to be given pastoral advice from married couples on the complex problems faced by families and marriages, they said.
The Pope highlighted in the 60,000-word text that ordained ministers often lack the training needed to deal with the complex problems facing families today.
According to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the Pope stressed the need for lay people, families and especially women to be involved in the priestly formation of seminarians in the area of marriage.
Both archbishops also stressed that parishes will be the primary place of renewal of the family in the Irish Church.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin called on families to take a "leading role" in this parish based-renewal. A greater involvement of parishes will also contribute to the Catholic Church in Ireland's current preparations for the 9th World Meeting of Families, which will take place in Dublin in 2018.
Held every three years, it is the largest gathering of Catholic families in the world and celebrates family life and the Church's support for families.
Pope Francis used insights from the Synods of Bishops, which took place in Rome in 2014 and 2015, to affirm Church teaching on contraception, abortion and gay relationships.
He warned priests and bishops they must not simply judge people and impose rules on them without considering their struggles.
Pope Francis said gay people should be respected but firmly re-stated the Church's position that there are "absolutely no grounds" to equate gay unions to heterosexual marriage.
- On the divorced and remarried, no change in doctrine but the Pope calls for better and more locally based pastoral care based on individual situations. "Too often Church has found it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful."
- Pastors must accompany Catholics living in "so-called irregular situations", integrating them better into parish life. Pope calls for a compassionate Church open to "imperfect" Catholics.
- Marriage is between one man and one woman; same-sex marriage is not considered marriage. But repeats the Church's teaching on showing consideration to gay people.
- The lack of dignified or affordable housing often leads to the postponement of formal relationships: families have the right to decent housing.
- "No family drops down from Heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love."