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Pope urges compassion for failed marriages

'Accompany, don't condemn' couples for dashed love

28 February, 17:05
Pope urges compassion for failed marriages (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Vatican City, February 28 - Pope Francis on Friday continued to strike new and conciliatory notes on contentious Catholic issues by preaching compassion for people in failed marriages.

Francis, who has previously hinted that divorced people could take Communion and access other sacraments instead of being turned away, urged the faithful "not to condemn" those whose marriages fail.

"Accompany, don't condemn" couples for their "failure" to maintain love for each other, the pope said in a homily at Saint Martha's House, the Vatican guest house used by the pope as a residence. "When a man leaves his father and mother to couple with a woman, to become one body (with her) and go forward, and this love fails - because so often it fails - we should feel the pain of the failure, accompany those people who have had this failure in their own love," said Francis according to excerpts published by Vatican Radio.

"Don't condemn them! Walk with them. Don't make a case study of their situation," the pope went on. "This is the trap. Behind the case study, there is always a trap. Always! Against the people, against God, always! 'Is it okay to do this? To repudiate one's own wife?' And Jesus responded, asking them what the law said and explaining why Moses made this law this way. But he did not stop there". "Think about this design of love, this walk toward Christian matrimonial love, that God blessed in the masterpiece of His Creation".

Reactions to the pope's latest liberal overture were enthusiastic.

A devout Catholic interviewed by ANSA said, "We divorced people are forced to live our faith as if we were conspirators.

"The words of Bergoglio (the pope's surname) are a chink of light after years of darkness," he said. Although he has not ordered any doctrinal changes, Francis has struck a very different tone from his predecessor, the shy and cerebral Benedict XVI, who shocked the world a year ago by becoming the first pope in 700 years to voluntarily step down.

He has washed the feet of juvenile prisoners including a Muslim girl, said he was not prepared to judge gays, shunned the pomp and ceremony of his office, and issued several mildly spoken but cogent condemnations of the ill-effects of global capitalism.

Last month he said the gap between the world's rich and poor was "scandalous", and urged global leaders to take "serious" action against it "at long last".

Francis's January 23 broadside was the latest in a string of critiques of the fall-out of unfettered capitalism which has widened income gaps and kept the worst-off locked in poverty.

Francis devoted much of his first major written teaching, an apostolic exhortation, to a scathing examination of unchecked neoliberal free-market policies, chiming with the message of Jesus.

In the words of Rolling Stone, which put Francis on its cover last month under the Bob Dylan protest song caption The Time They are a-Changing, "The pope revealed his own obsessions to be more in line with the boss' son".

Time magazine, which anointed Francis its person of the year in December , highlighted that, in the exhortation, Francis could "barely contain his outrage when he writes, "How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?".