ROME, November 25, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — In a remarkable pastoral letter, issued by Bishop Renato Marangoni of the northern Italian diocese of Belluno-Feltre, those who have separated from their legitimate spouses and attempted marriage in a civil forum have received an apology for the Church’s prior fidelity to her unbroken apostolic discipline, which had hitherto prevented them from receiving absolution and the Eucharist.
The bishop also invites them to attend a “friendly and familiar meeting,” where they will reflect on the words of Pope Francis in his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Chapter 8 of the document, titled “Accompanying, discerning and integrating weakness,” ignited a doctrinal dispute over fundamentals of the Catholic faith on marriage, the sacraments, and the moral life.
Addressing divorced Catholics who have begun “new experiences of union” through civil remarriage or without attempting marriage to their new partners, Bishop Marangoni opens his letter (see full text below), saying: “There is a first word I wish to confide to you: Sorry! This word contains our awareness that we have often ignored you in our parish communities.”
Implying a recent change in the Church’s unbroken doctrine and discipline, Marangoni, 61, who was appointed bishop of Belluno-Feltre, near Venice, in February 2016, writes: “For a long time, we have also said that you could not be fully admitted to the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, while in many of you there was a desire to be sustained by the gift of the sacraments and by the warmth and affection of a community.”
“In this we have become rigid in a very formal vision of the family situations you are in,” the prelate says apologetically.
Bishop Marangoni is not the first Italian bishop to issue such an invitation.
In recent days, his counterpart, Bishop Corrado Pizziolo of the neighboring diocese of Vittorio-Veneto, announced in the diocesan newspaper what he called “a novelty.” The bishop said it consists in “providing for certain couples who do not live Christian marriage fully the possibility of access to sacramental participation.”
And in an Advent letter to the faithful of his diocese one year ago, Bishop Gianmarco Busca of the northern Italian diocese of Mantua said: “[T]he faithful who are divorced and remarried, or who live stably in a second relationship, can embark on an ecclesial journey of reconciliation which, in some cases, can lead to the possibility of gaining access to the sacrament of Penance and Eucharistic Communion.”
Busca, also appointed by Pope Francis in 2016, presented his new directives as the fruit of Amoris Laetitia.
Here below is an English translation of Bishop Marangoni’s letter.
* * *
To you who have chosen to be a family and have gone through situations that have led to separation or even divorce and, beyond this, to begin new experiences of union for which some have chosen to remarry civilly or not to marry … to you is this letter addressed!
I address you with a greeting meant to open a relationship of knowledge, esteem and dialogue. I speak to you on behalf of the diocese of Belluno Feltre, whose bishop I am.
There is a first word I wish to confide to you: Sorry! This word contains our awareness that we have often ignored you in our parish communities. Perhaps you have also suffered from attitudes among us of judgment and criticism towards you. For a long time, we have also said that you could not be fully admitted to the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, while in many of you there was a desire to be sustained by the gift of the sacraments and by the warmth and affection of a community.
In this we have become rigid in a very formal vision of the family situations you are in. We were wrong not to consider as much the personal situation, the dreams that you had nourished, your vocation to married life with the life plans it entailed, even though you had to face troubled family events, where many factors may have been decisive in hindering all of this. It is precisely in these complex situations that personal responsibility needs to be supported and helped in its frailty.
To those of you who have been discouraged and left our parish communities, we are here to confide that we miss you and that we feel that we need you and your witness of life. We know the troubled events that you have gone through and that have disturbed and wounded your family relationships, can help us all to consider life as a gift that should never be taken for granted, as a responsibility that never ends, as a way to begin again down the path of life for the promise that it represents.
A word from Jesus resonates with us: Take heart, rise, he is calling you! It is a word he pronounces over every life, even when it seems compromised in its roots.
It is because of his word that we would like to meet people who feel open wounds in their family relations or who have rebegun a life together and wish to place it alongside Jesus’s word of life.
Here is the invitation we wish to give you: on the afternoon of Sunday, December 1, at 3:00 p.m., at the Pope Luciani Center in Col Cumano of Santa Giustina. We will meet together with other people, including some married couples, who are dedicated to the pastoral care of the family within the Diocese of Belluno Feltre.
Believe it… Believe it…: it will be a friendly and familiar meeting, where we will also listen to the Word of Jesus and also rediscover the encouraging words of Pope Francis, that he wrote in one of his exhortations: Amoris Laetitia.
We are waiting for you!
Belluno, November 22, 2019