13 May 2014, The Tablet

Bishop calls for Church to listen to calls for Communion for divorcees

The Catholic Church should listen to all the arguments in favour of gay relationships, Communion for remarried divorcees, and ending mandatory celibacy for priests, a senior Italian bishops has insisted.

The secretary-general of the Italian bishops’ conference (CEI), Nunzio Galantino, bishop of the southern diocese of Cassano all’Jonio, told the Florence-based La Nazione newspaper yesterday that he wanted church leaders to open their mind to different views on these issues.

He said: “My wish for the Italian Church is that it is able to listen without any taboo to the arguments in favour of married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, and homosexuality."

Bishops from around the world are due to debate the Church’s teaching on such issues at their Extraordinary Synod for the Family in October, having dispatched questionnaires to every diocese for feedback.

Bishop Galantino, 65, said that the Church had invested a lot of its time on issues relating to the sanctity of life, perhaps at the expense of other important issues. He said: “In the past we have concentrated too much on abortion and euthanasia. It mustn’t be this way because in the middle there’s real life which is constantly changing.

“I don’t identify with the expressionless person who stands outside the abortion clinic reciting their rosary, but with young people, who are still against this practice, but are instead fighting for quality of life, their health, their right to work.”

He said he believed the arrival of Pope Francis represented a unique chance to usher in liberal reforms. “With Pope Francis the Italian Church has an extraordinary opportunity to reposition itself on spiritual moral and cultural beliefs,” he said.

Pope Francis appointed Galantino interim secretary-general of the CEI last December and made the position permanent last month.

Galantino appears to echo the views of the Pope, who said last year that the Church risked falling “like a house of cards” if it was “obsessed” only with issues related to “abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods”.

John Smeaton, the Chief Executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said he was “deeply troubled” by the bishop’s comments.

“I do identify with the person outside the abortion clinic praying their rosary, whether or not the person is expressionless,” he wrote in an open letter to Bishop Galantino on his blog.

He said a pro-life group in south-west London often told him that “young women who, seeing the people outside the abortion clinics praying, change their minds and keep their baby.”

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