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Cardinal Schönborn: Pope Francis follows John Paul II’s teaching on communion

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn (right) and Cardinal Lorenxo Baldisseri hold a copy of Pope Francis's apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (CNS)

Pope Francis in in line with John Paul II’s teaching on communion, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has said.

At the press conference to mark the publication of Amoris Laetitia, Cardinal Schönborn was asked twice whether the Pope intended to break with John Paul’s Familiaris Consortio. That document said that remarried people should not be allowed access to communion unless they live “in complete continence”.

The key passage comes in paragraph 84 of the document. A journalist asked: “Has anything in the entirety of those paragraphs changed? Does everything still stand as is?”

“I don’t see why there should be a change,” said Cardinal Schönborn.

“The Pope is not innovating,” the cardinal said. “There are no novelties in this document. But the cautious pastoral care tradition can help here.”

There had been speculation that Pope Francis would teach in contradiction to Familiaris Consortio. But the cardinal said that Amoris Laetitia was a development in continuty with Pope John Paul II’s teaching.

Paragraph 84 of Familiaris Consortio was included in the final document of last year’s family synod. However, that document omitted John Paul II’s statement that “Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage.

“This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.’”

Cardinal Schönborn was pressed to say whether Francis had contradicted John Paul II, but would not accept the suggestion, saying: “Pope Francis intends to express a global vision and not being entangled in a specific point, which is important, but rather peculiar, rather specific. Discernment itself in some cases, like the help of sacraments, might not be heaven-sent.”