German bishops push reform to welcome divorced and remarried Catholics

November 25, 2013

(Stuttgart’s Catholic Bishop Gebhard Fürst, seen here at a memorial service for victims of a school shooting, on March 21, 2009. REUTERS/Bernd Weissbrod)

Germany’s Roman Catholic bishops plan to push ahead with proposed reforms to reinstate divorced and remarried parishioners despite a warning from the Vatican’s top doctrinal official, according to a senior cleric.

Stuttgart Bishop Gebhard Fürst told a meeting of lay Catholics at the weekend that the bishops had already drafted reform guidelines and aimed to approve them at their next plenary meeting in March.

Readmitting twice-married Catholics to full membership in the Church is a pressing concern for Pope Francis, who has called a special synod of bishops next October to consider ways to do this despite Catholicism’s rejection of divorce.

Fürstt was the most explicit of several German bishops to rebuff Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, head of the Vatican doctrinal office, who last month ruled out any change after Freiburg archdiocese in Germany unveiled its own reform proposals.

“We want to approve new guidelines at our plenary meeting in March,” Fürst told the Central Committee of German Catholics, an influential group of lay faithful, on Saturday in Bonn.

Catholics who divorce and remarry in a civil ceremony are barred from receiving communion under Vatican doctrine that applies to the worldwide Church. Many of them see this as a sign of rejection and drift away from the faith.

Fürst said this complaint was one of the most frequent that German bishops have heard since they launched a broad drive to consult the faithful following a shocking wave of revelations in 2010 about sexual abuse of minors by priests.

“Expectations (of reform) are great, and impatience and anger are greater still,” he said, adding that a working group of bishops has been debating the issue since then.

Read the full story here.  An audio clip of Fürst’s address (in German) can be heard here under TOP 8 | Wiederverheiratete Geschiedene.

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