Pope Francis Thanks Maltese Bishops for ‘Amoris Laetitia’ Guidelines

Gratitude sent through a letter from Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops.

Pope Francis walking to the Paul VI Hall, April 4, 2017.
Pope Francis walking to the Paul VI Hall, April 4, 2017. (photo: Edward Pentin/NCRegister.com )

On behalf of Pope Francis, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri has reportedly sent a letter to Malta’s bishops to thank them for their guidelines on applying the controversial Chapter 8 of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love).

The Maltese website Newsbook reported April 5 that the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops sent the letter of gratitude to co-signatories of the guidelines, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo, but did not give any further details.

The bishops’ document, published Jan. 13 and entitled Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia, drew strong criticism from some theologians, canon lawyers, and some Vatican officials who argued that it appeared to assert the primacy of conscience over the objective moral truth.

The bishops stated in the guidelines that some remarried divorcees can receive Holy Communion after a period of discernment, with an informed and enlightened conscience, and if they are “at peace with God.”

Critics said the criteria clearly contradicted previous papal teaching, the Catechism, canon law, and Vatican instruction, stressing that Church teaching clearly forbids allowing Holy Communion for remarried divorcees engaging in sexual relations without an annulment.

Some priests in Malta expressed their “deep discomfort” about their bishops' directives which they called confusing, while other priests outside the country said they would be unable to follow the guidelines if their own bishops imposed them.

Malta’s bishops, however, insisted the criteria “follow the magisterium of the Catholic Church in the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia by H.H. Pope Francis”, and they urged reading the entire document.

Last month, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster praised the bishops’ document, saying it does not start by saying “What about this rule or that rule?”

“It starts by saying if this is your position and you feel uneasy, you want to know where you stand, what you ought to be doing, then come and we’ll talk. But let’s be honest, let’s be open and let’s see where we go,” he said.

The differing interpretations of Amoris Laetitia (other bishops have interpreted it strictly in line with previous papal teaching) have led to considerable confusion in dioceses around the world, prompting four cardinals to appeal to Pope Francis for clarification.

Later this month, a group of lay academics will add their voices calling on the Holy Father to affirm a definitive interpretation of the apostolic exhortation.

However, observers say this letter, like a leaked papal memo to Argentine bishops last year, already clearly indicate which interpretation the Pope favors.  

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