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Pope Francis: Amoris Laetitia, “Not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium”. “Firmly grounded in reality”

“Not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium”. This recommendation marks the beginning of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” – dated 19 March but published today – that Pope Francis addressed to “bishops, priests and deacons, consecrated persons, Christian married couples, and all the lay faithful on love in the family”. “Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it”, the Pope highlights in the document – with 325 paragraphs and nine chapters – in which the various interventions of the Synod Fathers in the two-year Synod process are seen as “a multifaceted gem”. It is precisely the two “Relatio Synodi” of 2014 and 2015, alongside the 28 Wednesday catechesis delivered between the two Synods and the reflections of his predecessors – St John Paul II, Paul VI and Benedict XVI – in fundamental documents for the pastoral care of the family, like “Familiaris consortio” and “Humane vitae”, which are the most cited texts by Pope Francis. In the first seven paragraphs, the Pope challenges some widespread attitudes: “The debates carried on in the media, in certain publications and even among the Church’s ministers, range from an immoderate desire for total change without sufficient reflection or grounding, to an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations”. In the Jubilee Year, “Amoris Laetitia” wants to be “an invitation to Christian families to value the gifts of marriage and the family, and to persevere in a love strengthened by the virtues of generosity, commitment, fidelity and patience” so as to “encourage everyone to be a sign of mercy and closeness wherever family life remains imperfect or lacks peace and joy”. “Firmly grounded in reality”: this is the spirit of the document, in which some “essential aspects of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family” are recalled, and “some pastoral approaches” are highlighted that can “guide us in building sound and fruitful homes in accordance with God’s plan”. At the centre is “an invitation to mercy and the pastoral discernment of those situations that fall short of what the Lord demands of us”. In sum, a call to “love and cherish family life” because “families are not a problem; they are first and foremost an opportunity”.

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