It is with great joy that we receive Pope Francis’ exhortation, Amoris Laetitia “The Joy of Love: On Love in the Family”, the Exhortation written by Pope Francis after the two Synods of Bishops on that topic in October 2014 and October 2015.
Pope Francis, who has often been embraced for his warmth, personal touch and authentic leadership style, calls for a pastoral and compassionate response to some of the most important questions being faced by families today.
The exhortation addresses several complex topics, including Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried and marriage as a sacrament between one man and woman.
While the Church’s teachings on these important issues remains unchanged, we are greatly thankful for the dialogue and discussion that the two synods have provided us, and that in Amoris Laetitia Pope Francis calls for a new respect for the complexity of modern family life and for a pastoral and compassionate response to families rather than a doctrinal one alone. He emphasises the need for pastors to do everything possible to help people in complex situations to be included in the life of the community.
The much anticipated exhortation draws on a long history of Church teaching, and a very intense Synod experience. It draws on both new and old. What’s new above all is an attitude of accompaniment.
Pope Francis, like his predecessors, recognizes the complexity of modern family life. But he puts an added emphasis on the need for the Church and her pastors to be close to people no matter what their situation might be or how far from the Church they might feel: to understand, to accompany, to integrate, and to have their arms open especially for anyone who is hurting. (AL 311)
AL is not simply a theoretical text with no connection to people’s real problems. The very title suggests the positive thrust of the document. It continually offers concrete reminders of the beauty of family life, despite all the challenges this vocation can entail. Pope Francis writes eloquently about how forming a family means being part of God’s dream, joining him in building a world “where no one will feel alone.” (AL 320)
Chapter Eight, “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness,” offers a very profound look at how general rules do not apply straightforwardly to every particular situation. And so there is need to take the complexity of each situation into account. The Pope acknowledges that everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight. It certainly calls pastors and those working in family apostolates to listen sensitively to anyone who feels wounded, and to help them experience God’s unconditional love.
The full text of Amoris Laetitia is available here: https://www.catholic.org.au/synod-2015/blog