Archbishop of Manila: “The question of remarried divorcees remains open”

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“Vatican Insider” interviews the Archbishop of Manila: “The issue is mentioned in the final Synod document. The Synod is not a battle. In the Philippines people separate out of love for their children.

“The question of pastoral care for the divorced and remarried and examining further the possibility of admitting them to the sacraments” remains “open” because it is mentioned in the final document which was voted on by the Synod and then published. This is according to 57-year-old Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle - one of the delegate presidents of the assembly on the family which concluded last Saturday – said this in an interview with Vatican Insider and Italian newspaper La Stampa. The Filipino cardinal, one of the key figures of the Asian Church, said that just because some paragraphs did not obtain the required two-thirds majority vote, does not mean Pope Francis failed.

After Saturday’s vote on the Synod’s final document, some journalists, particularly in the English-speaking world, talked about a divided Church and a “defeated” Pope. Were they right?

“No, it is not true, in my opinion there was no defeat. I don’t believe that the outcome of the vote on the relatio synodi can be defined as such. The most important elements in a Synod, are listening and a freedom to express different opinions on any given situation. The Synod is not a battle, nor is it the result of a strategy. Some may have viewed it as such but this is not how the Synod sees itself.”

Do questions that got the necessary two-thirds majority such as the one regarding the possibility of readmitting remarried divorcees to the sacraments, remain open in your opinion?

“Yes, of course they remain open. This Extraordinary Synod represents just one leg of the journey. The question regarding pastoral care for divorced people who remarry and looking into the possibility of admitting them to the sacraments in some cases, situations and under certain conditions, was clearly outlined in the final text. The number of votes that paragraph obtained – an absolute majority – was made public and as the Pope said, it will be integrated in the document that will be sent to Bishops’ Conferences.”

What was the point of these two weeks of discussions?

“It was a chance for existing problems to be brought to everyone’s attention. I was a delegate president of the assembly but by the second day I turned into a pupil! We heard about the pastoral challenges that affect other countries and continents such as Africa and I must humbly admit that I don’t understand everything, I need to listen and learn…”

In his concluding speech on Saturday, which was warmly applauded in the Synod Hall, the Pope spoke about a number of temptations, from that of “hostile inflexibility” felt by those who lock themselves to the letter of the law, to the temptation of a “destructive do-goodery”. Which attitudes prevailed?

“I think a common awareness and attention to the wounds of families prevailed during the discussions. Every single Synod Father tried to offer a solution. But we must consider the mystery of faith, the World of the Lord, the richness of tradition… It is a complex reality, like a multifaceted diamond: some see one facet, others notice another. But there is a deep truth that unites us; all of us try to follow our supreme pastor, Jesus Christ.”

Did someone in your opinion try to set the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, against Francis?

“I heard no such thing. And if someone did attempt this, I was certainly not involved…”

What family-related challenges did Asia present at the Synod?

“I speak for my Philippines. In the preparation phase, I spoke quite a bit about poverty and the emigration phenomenon: two issues which are not exclusive to the family context, affected the very core of family life. In our country there is no law on divorce. But people do divorce out of love. Fathers and mothers separate out of love for their children and one of them goes to the other side of the world to work. These separations are triggered by love. In the Philippines and countries affected by migration, we must, as a Church, accompany these people, help them to be faithful to their wives and husbands.”

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By Andrea Tornielli