Pope's Guidelines on Love, Sex and Marriage
In a new set of guidelines, Pope Francis softens the church stance on divorcees and cohabitation of unmarried couples, but holds the line against homosexuality.
Pope Francis has issued hotly-anticipated new guidelines on the Church's approach to love, sex and marriage after two years of consultations with the world's bishops. Here are some of the main points:
- Homosexuality -
Francis slaps down proposals to place gay unions on the same level as marriage, saying bishops found "there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family."
He also slams external pressure on churches to change their position and says it is "unacceptable" that "international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish 'marriage' between persons of the same sex."
The pope offered sympathy to those families with gay relatives, "a situation not easy for parents or for children," and said the Church must avoid "every sign of unjust discrimination" towards homosexuals.
- Cohabitation -
Francis says couples who live together outside of marriage "need to be welcomed and guided, patiently and discreetly," and the choice to cohabit may be based on external factors such as financial difficulties or cultural situations.
- Remarried divorced people -
"They are not excommunicated and should not be treated as such," and should be made to feel part of the Church "while avoiding any occasion of scandal." The pope says the Christian community caring for such people "is not to be considered a weakening of its faith" but a sign of "its charity."
- Broken marriages -
Pastors should judge situations on a case-by-case basis: "we know that no 'easy recipes' exist."
- Children -
Offspring should be taught to say "Please," "Thank you" and "Sorry," they should be punished for misbehavior, cured of the vice of "wanting it all now" and prevented from watching television programs which undercut family values.
- Church self-criticism -
"We need a healthy dose of self-criticism," says the pope, admitting that until now the Church has "proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage" and struggles to present marriage as more than "a lifelong burden."
Pope Francis has weighed in on love, sex and marriage.
At least 200,000 people flocked to St. Peter's Square on Tuesday for the inauguration mass of Pope Francis. Pilgrims arrived in the first hours of the morning with welcome signs for the Argentine pope.
Known as "the Mass of the beginning of the Petrine ministry," the ceremony formally installed the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the 266th pontiff in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.
Wearing his papal whites, Francis waved, smiled, kissed babies and gave an informal thumbs-up to the ecstatic crowds as he toured the sun-basked square.
Dozens of blue and white flags from Francis' native Argentina, as well as from countries all over the world fluttered above the crowd.
In a joyous atmosphere, pilgrims chanted the pope's name in Italian -- "Francesco, Francesco!" and cried "Viva il Papa" -- long live the pope.
The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was presented with the Fisherman's Ring and the pallium, a white wool stole embroidered with five silk crosses, symbols of his role and power as the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
The ring is made of gold-plated silver, in contrast with Benedict's chunky gold ring.
Pope Francis also chose his coat of arms -- the same that he used as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, but with the addition of the golden papal miter and the crossed keys that unlock the kingdom of God.
His motto will be “miserando atque eligendo” (Latin for “because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him”).
For the Mass, Francis wore plain white vestments, trimmed with gold and brown, and simple black shoes, in contrast to Benedict's hand made red loafers.
Among the multitude of pilgrims, 130 delegations from around the world, including six sovereigns and 31 heads of state, took their seats for the open-air service.
The guest list included U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (front row, at right), German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Bishops (pictured), cardinals and priests attended the ceremony.
Religious leaders covered a broad range, and included 33 Christian churches, 16 Jewish leaders, and Muslim, Buddhist and Sikh leaders. The ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, also participated. It's the first time the spiritual head of Orthodox Christians attend a papal inauguration since the Great Schism between western and eastern Christianity in 1054.
“Don't be afraid of tenderness,” Francis said in the homily.
Although he has been winning hearts with his humble, warm and direct style, Pope Francis will have to face big challenges.
The path for the newly installed pontiff will be hard with issues such as a global crisis of faith, a dysfunctional church administration, the sex abuse and the Vatilieak corruption scandals.