Church can't recognize divorcees remarrying: pope

Sun Sep 14, 2008 4:03pm EDT
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By Philip Pullella

LOURDES, France (Reuters) - Pope Benedict said on Sunday the Church could not recognize "irregular unions" of Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church.

"Initiatives aimed at blessing irregular unions cannot be admitted," he said in an address to French bishops in the shrine city of Lourdes.

Throughout the developed world, the Church has been struggling with how to administer to Catholics who have divorced and remarried without an annulment -- an ecclesiastical declaration that their first union is null and void -- but want to remain fully active in the Church.

The Church does not recognize divorce. It considers the first marriage still valid and teaches that those who divorce and remarry cannot receive communion unless they abstain from sexual relations with their new partner.

While bishops in several countries have been pushing for some opening on the difficult issue, the pope said the Church could not change its teachings on the indissolubility of marriage because it was instituted by Christ.

In other remarks, the pope ordered bishops to make space for traditionalists who use the Latin Mass.

A papal decision last year to allow a much wider use of the old-style mass -- a move which traditionalists demanded for decades but which was opposed by liberals -- has met with resistance in some countries, particularly France.

But the pope was firm in his position.   Continued...

<p>A baby is presented to Pope Benedict XVI to be blessed as he arrives in the Papamobile for the conclusion of the Eucharistic Procession at La Prairie in Lourdes on September 14, 2008. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau</p>