The Polish bishops hold their plenary assembly in Zakopane, June 6, 2017. CNA photo/Eliza Bartkiewicz, BP KEP

Polish bishops see continuity between Francis and John Paul II’s teaching on family

By  Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News
  • June 9, 2017

KRAKOW, Poland – The pastoral care of families was one of the key areas of discussion for Poland's bishops in their latest plenary assembly, which focused on continuity between the teaching of St. John Paul II and Pope Francis.

“In Familiaris consortio and Amoris laetitia you have one line in terms of teaching on the family,” said Fr. Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman for the Polish bishops' conference, noting that a large chuck of the first day of their June 6-7 plenary focused on the progress of guidelines for the application of Amoris laetitia regarding the pastoral care of families in general, as well as couples in irregular unions.

The Polish bishops, who typically meet three times a year in plenary assemblies, held their latest gathering in Zakopane, nearly 70 miles south of Krakow, to mark the 20th anniversary of St. John Paul II's visit to the town.

The bishops, Fr. Rytel-Andrianik said, constantly call for “a new approach to these people to try to include them into the life of the Church, in the light of Amoris laetitia" and in the light of paragraph 84 of Familiaris consortio, where St. John Paul II said that the increase in the number of divorced couples who have entered into new unions is a problem which “must be faced with resolution and without delay.”

“I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church, for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life,” he said.

Going on, St. John Paul II said these couples “should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favour of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God's grace."

Pope Francis expressed much of the same sentiments in Amoris laetitia, Fr. Rytel-Andrianik points out, particularly on the need to welcome these couples and encourage their participation in parish life, so that they don't feel stigmatized or ostracized.

Although the Polish bishops have yet to publish official guidelines for the application of Amoris laetitia, as some other bishops' conferences have, Fr. Rytel-Andrianik said the guidelines are in the final phases of revision, and should come out sometime in autumn.

Amoris laetitia (The Joy of Love), has been the subject of varied reception and interpretation since its release by Pope Francis in 2016, particularly regarding the pastoral care of divorced-and-remarried persons. The sticking point is whether its eighth chapter, on accompanying, discerning and integrating weakness, has opened the door for divorced persons who have remarried, and without taking on the duty to live in complete continence, to receive reconciliation and Communion.

Some, like Robert Spaemann and the four cardinals who submitted dubia to Pope Francis regarding the exhortation, have maintained Amoris laetitia is incompatible with Church teaching; while others, like Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the bishops of Alberta and Northwest Territories say it has not changed the Church's discipline or teaching.

Certain conferences, such as the German bishops and the Maltese bishops, have put out more open interpretations of Amoris laetitia in their pastoral guidelines, indicating that it maybe possible for divorced-and-remarried couples to receive Communion.

(Catholic News Agency)

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