Pope Francis has written to the Patriarch of Lisbon, thanking him personally for a note to priests on the application of Amoris Laetitia, which borrowed heavily from controversial Argentinian guidelines.
The Patriarch’s note was made public in February, and essentially replicates the guidelines of Buenos Aires and for the diocese of Rome.
The Patriarch, Cardinal Manuel Clemente, was heavily criticised for the note, first from conservatives who accused him of betraying the faith, and then from the secular press who condemned him for telling divorced-and-remarried couples to live in continence.
The cardinal had said that couples in irregular unions should first try to live in continence if they wanted to receive the sacraments. However, if that proves impossible they should move on to a discernment process that could lead to them rejoining the sacramental life of the Church.
Pope Francis has now written personally to the Patriarch to thank him for issuing the note.
“I recognised in it the effort of a pastor and father who, aware of the duty to accompany his faithful, wished to begin with his priests so that they can better fulfil their ministry”, the Pope wrote. The letter is dated June 26th, but was only made public on Thursday.
“Today, the reality of married life is one of the fields where this accompaniment is most delicate and necessary. That is why I wished to call the Bishops to a long synodal path which might prove propitious – despite the inevitable difficulties – to the maturing of shared guidelines which would benefit the entire People of God,” Pope Francis says.
The Pope goes on to encourage the Patriarch and all the priests of Lisbon to continue with their commitment to help those in complex situations. “A commitment which, on one hand, requires considerable effort on the part of us pastors, but which, on the other, regenerates us and sanctifies us, as everything is animated by the grace of the Holy Spirit which the Risen Lord bestowed on his apostles, for the remission of sins and the solicitous caring of all wounds.”
The Patriarch of Lisbon attended both Synods of the Family and initially expressed disagreement with the idea of allowing divorced-and-remarried Catholics to receive Communion. His attitude changed after the publication of Amoris Laetitia, however.
Filipe d’Avillez contributed to this report