German Catholic leader urges softer stance on divorcees

German Catholic leader urges softer stance on divorcees
German cardinal Reinhard Marx (R) stands next to Archbishop Emeritus Robert Zollitsch as he speaks after being elected new chairman of the German Episcopal Conference on March 12, 2024 in Muenster, western Germany.

BERLIN - The new leader of Germany's Roman Catholic bishops called for a revision of the Church's ban on divorced people who re-marry receiving Communion, in an interview published Sunday.

Reinhard Marx, a close associate of Pope Francis who was elected head of the German Episcopal Conference on Wednesday, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that he felt such an easing of Church doctrine was "practicable".

Re-married Catholics "who acknowledge their failure should be able to apply for a readmission to the sacraments after a period of penitence," he was quoted as saying.

Marx, 60, noted that German Cardinal Walter Kaspar had made such a proposal at the Vatican.

"The cardinals had very diverse reactions to this proposal," he said. "I personally find it to be a practicable plan that would however have to be applied on a case-by-case basis."

Marx, who belongs to a panel of eight cardinals advising Pope Francis on Church reform, is known in Germany as an outspoken commentator on religious, economic and social affairs.

Germany's bishops represent a wealthy and powerful faction of the Church.

Francis last month signalled a softer stance on divorce, saying Catholic couples whose marriages fail should be "accompanied" and not "condemned".

The main issue facing the Church is whether divorced people who re-marry should be allowed to take part in the most sacred point of Catholic mass, Holy Communion, which is forbidden under current rules that in practice are often not observed.

The issue is one of personal anguish for many Catholic couples, who say they are being treated as second-class believers, and has led to acts of defiance.

The issue affects millions around the world, with around a quarter of Catholic marriages ending in divorce in the United States alone.

The reform-minded pontiff has called an extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops next year to discuss the Church's position with regard to the family, which is expected to address among other issues divorcees re-marrying and children of divorced parents.

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