Sources say Pope Francis signed the 200 plus page post-synodal apostolic exhortation on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph but it is being translated into other languages (from Italian) before its release. Reports say it will be published on April 8, 2016 at 11:30am (Rome time) and that Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna who was part of the German language group that offered a form of the “Internal Forum” as a way to bring divorced and remarried Catholics back into the fold, will present it. Other expected participants at the press conference are: Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops; Professor Francesco Miano, lecturer in moral philosophy at the University of Rome at Tor Vergata, and his wife, Professor Giuseppina De Simone in Miano, lecturer in philosophy at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples.
The event will be live-streamed on Vatican Radio.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, the architect of a pathway to Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics recently said that Pope Francis will “definitively express himself on family issues addressed during the last synod, and in particular on the participation of the divorced and remarried faithful in the active life of the Catholic community”.
The National Catholic Register reported Kasper as saying the exhortation will represent “the first step in a reform” that will mark the “turning of a page” in the Church’s history “after 1,700 years.”
“We must not repeat past formulas and barricade ourselves behind the wall of exclusivism and clericalism,” Kasper told the audience. The Church must live in the current times and “know how to interpret them,” also saying that women must be offered more opportunities to serve in Church administration.
If changing protocol is a marker for what lays ahead, Francis may be sending another signal. On Febraury 27, when Argentina’s new president, Mauricio Macri, visited Pope Francis in the Vatican, accompanied by his third wife, Juliana Awada, Francis, overcame resistance from the protocol chiefs and secretariat of state and received Macri with his wife in his private library. Prior to that, Vatican protocol required that if a Catholic head of state visited the pope accompanied by a spouse not married to him (or her) in the church then that person was not admitted to the official audience with the pope. Instead, the pope would greet that person separately in another room after the main audience. Unhappy with that protocol, Francis changed it.
- There will be no change in church doctrine. Pope Francis will reaffirm that marriage is between a man and a woman in a lifelong union open to having children. He will restate church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.
- Pope Francis is expected to open doors in terms of the church’s pastoral approach to issues such as cohabitation, how divorced and remarried Catholics may be reinstated in the church and allowed to receive Communion, and homosexuality in the family.
- Mercy will be emphasized as the heart of the Gospel message. He will also highlight the vital importance of “accompaniment” and “reconciliation.”The document is scheduled to be released during the first part of April, apparently, thank goodness, in multiple languages.