Pope tells cardinals to tackle divisive family issues with courage

Thu Feb 20, 2014 10:13am EST
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Thursday urged cardinals gathered to discuss family-related issues such as contraception, cohabitation, divorce and gay relationships to be "intelligent, courageous and loving" in their debate.

He was opening two days of closed-door sessions with some 185 cardinals from around the world to prepare for an autumn synod of bishops that will discuss the issues at greater length.

"We are called to make known God's magnificent plan for the family and to help spouses joyfully experience this plan in their lives, as we accompany them amidst so many difficulties, even with a pastoral plan that is intelligent, courageous and full of love," Francis told the cardinals.

While there is no possibility that the Church will change its teachings against abortion and gay marriage, many Catholics hope that the autumn synod could lead to modifications of its stance on other family-related issues

For example, Catholics who have divorced and remarried outside the Church without an annulment are now barred from receiving communion.

The meeting is being held in the wake of a worldwide survey of Catholics - an unusually open move for a traditionally top-down institution - that is showing a deep divide between Church officials and the faithful on issues of sexual morality.

Significantly, the pope chose German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who clashed with former Pope Benedict over theological issues and who is a leading proponent of reaching out to the remarried, to give the keynote address.


Pope Francis looks on as he arrives to lead a special consistory for the family in the Paul VI's hall at the Vatican February 20, 2014. REUTERS/Max Rossi