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Following his election as Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron was grilled by the media about his beliefs as an evangelical Christian. Has the focus on faith, which began with Tony Blair, reached the point where it is harder than ever to hold religious beliefs and play an active role in political life?
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The Vatican today said that private phonecalls made by the Pope do not alter Church teaching following reports that Francis rang a woman married to a divorcee and told her that she could receive Communion.
The Pope is alleged to have told Jacqueline Sabetta Lisbona, who is from his native Argentina, that she could go up to receive the Eucharist despite the fact she entered a civil marriage with a divorcee, with whom she has two children.
In the Church’s eyes Ms Lisbona would not be able to receive Communion because she is in an adulterous relationship with a married man.
The question of Communion for those who are divorced and remarried is a hotly disputed issue and is due to be discussed at a synod on marriage and family life later this year.
There are a number of senior church leaders who would like to see the ban lifted and Pope Francis has hinted that the Church should adopt a more merciful approach.
Vatican sources confirmed to The Tablet that the telephone call took place but did not elaborate on the details. A spokesman also confirmed that the spouse of Ms Lisbona had not recived an annullment for his first marriage.
In a statement, the Holy See press office said: “Several telephone calls have taken place in the context of Pope Francis’ personal pastoral relationships.
“Since they do not in any way form part of the Pope's public activities, no information or comments are to be expected from the Holy See Press Office.
“That which has been communicated in relation to this matter, outside the scope of personal relationships, and the consequent media amplification, cannot be confirmed as reliable, and is a source of misunderstanding and confusion. Therefore, consequences relating to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred from these occurrences.”