Victory for Pope Francis as divorcees to be allowed communion
Catholic bishops have softened Vatican doctrine toward divorcees but strongly rejected gay marriage at the end of one of the most divisive synods of recent times.
By a single vote over the two-thirds majority necessary, the synod agreed to allow divorcees to take communion, from which they have been banned, after consideration on a "case-by-case" basis.
The issue has been one of the most sensitive issues in recent times for the church, as Roman Catholic countries liberalise divorce laws. Many people who see themselves as unwilling victims of divorce have found themselves unable to take what they see as a full part in the life of the church.
The results are seen as a victory for Pope Francis, who has called for the church to be more merciful as he prepares his own document on family issues.
"A faith that does not know how to root itself in the life of people remains arid and, rather than oases, creates other deserts," he said yesterday, as the synod came to a close.
The 270 Catholic bishops and leaders gathered in Rome had sat through more than 90 hours of debate over the last three weeks as they considered how to update guidelines for providing pastoral care to Catholic families.
Pope Francis had raised expectations of change in previously hard-line positions after initiating the thorny process of updating Catholic teachings two years ago.
The final document agreed to on Saturday night reflects the continuing deep rift that remains between conservative and progressive factions within the church hierarchy.
The language describing same-sex marriage as "not even remotely analogous" to heterosexual marriage marked a victory for the conservative camp.