The Archdiocese of Freiburg intends to permit its priests to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion. The exclusion of these people from Communion has become one of the most difficult topics in the Catholic Church in Germany. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch was bishop of Freiburg until his recent resignation at age 75; he remains president of the German Bishops’ Conference.

According to Catholic teaching, divorced people who remarry are not allowed access to the sacraments, which has troubled many people. When Pope Benedict XVI visited Germany in 2011, President Christian Wulff called for a solution to the problem. More recently, Pope Francis has called for mercy for the divorced.

In the paper for pastoral assistance published on the archdiocese’s homepage, ministers are given tips for dealing with people who are divorced and have remarried civilly. “As a consequence of a responsibly made decision in conscience,” the remarried could receive the sacraments, provide that “the requisite concrete disposition of faith” is there.

According to the diocesan spokesman, Robert Eberle, this paper does not fundamentally give open access to Communion to the remarried. “It is merely a small building block along the path by which we extend the hand to the divorced and remarried,” he said. “There will certainly be individual cases where this sacramental issue is solved this way.” The couple must enter into an extended conversation with a clergyman which may lead to admittance to the sacraments. “Everything we are doing here stands on the basis of canon law with observance of church teaching.”

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