View From Rome

View from Rome

07 April 2016 | by Christopher Lamb


It was to the Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn that Pope Francis turned this week to present perhaps the most eagerly anticipated document of his pontificate: an apostolic exhortation following two synods on the family.

Amoris Laetitia (the joy of love) was due for release on Friday and brings to a head 18 months of ferocious debate on the Church’s approach to the family and relationships. It has laid bare divisions among bishops with clashes over whether Communion can be given to divorced and remarried Catholics and the best approach to welcoming gays.

The 71-year-old cardinal, himself a child of divorced parents, represents a bridge between the warring factions. As the leader of the German-speaking working group during last October’s synod he was instrumental in bringing together conservative Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the reforming Cardinal Walter Kasper. The German group’s final report presented a way for the Church to accept giving Communion to remarried divorcees on a case-by-case basis and, crucially, without changing doctrine. The approach was later taken up in the final synod document which itself was agreed to by two thirds of the bishops who attended.

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