Pope softens stance on unmarried 'sinners'

2016-04-08 14:01
File: AFP

File: AFP

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Vatican City – Pope Francis insisted that individual conscience should be the guiding principle for Catholics negotiating the complexities of sex, marriage and family life in a major document that rejects the emphasis on black and white rules for the faithful.

Francis softened the Catholic Church's approach to two classes of "sinners", saying cohabiting couples should be "welcomed and guided" while remarried divorced people should not be cast out into the cold.

Couples who live together outside of marriage "need to be welcomed and guided, patiently and discreetly", the pontiff said in new guidelines on the Church's approach to the family, while those who have divorced and remarried "are not excommunicated and they should not be treated as such".

In the 256-page document "The Joy of Love," released on Friday, Francis makes no change in church doctrine. But in selectively citing his predecessors and emphasizing his own teachings, Francis makes clear that he wants nothing short of a revolution in the way priests accompany Catholics.

He says the church must no longer sit in judgment and "throw stones" against those who fail to live up to the Gospel's ideals of marriage and family life. He said of the church: "We have been called to form consciences, not replace to them."


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