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Pope's statement welcomed in NZ

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 9/04/2016
Pope Francis © Reuters Pope Francis

Catholic Church leaders in New Zealand are welcoming a document outlining a more merciful and loving church.

The 260-page treatise called "Amoris Laetitia," (The Joy of Love), one of the most eagerly awaited pronouncements of Pope Francis, calls for more compassion towards "imperfect" Catholics, such as those who divorced and remarried, saying "no one can be condemned forever".

New Zealand's Cardinal John Drew said the Pope took particular care in talking about those that are divorced and now in new unions.

"He appeals to us all that they not be made to feel that they are excluded from the church family.

"In particular pastors and those involved in family ministries are reminded of their obligation to exercise careful discernment of situations and to avoid judgments that do not take into account the complexity of different situations as well as people's differing degrees of responsibility.

"The emphasis is on showing love and tenderness and working to integrate all people into the church community no matter what their situation."

Under current church teaching, Catholics who divorce and remarry in civil ceremonies cannot receive communion unless they abstain from sex with their new partner, because their first marriage is still valid in the eyes of the church and they are seen to be living in an adulterous state of sin.

"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," Pope Francis said.

Bishop Charles Drennan, Bishop of Palmerston North, said the statement was an appeal to bishops and priests "that we be pastors of open hearts not closed minds".

The Pope said gays should be respected but firmly restated the church's position that there are "absolutely no grounds" to equate gay unions to heterosexual marriage.

The Pope also highlights the situation of the elderly in many societies, including the tragic reality of social isolation, and stresses the importance of the welcoming those who leave their homelands in search of safety, security and stability and a better life for their families.

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