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Mercy does not have to wait for guidelines

MANILA (UCAN): “Mercy cannot wait. Mercy should not wait,” the Philippine bishops said in response to the exhortation of Pope Francis, The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia), released at the Vatican on April 8.

In a pastoral letter issued on April 10, the bishops said that even before they can come up with concrete guidelines on the implementation of the exhortation, everybody must open welcoming arms to those who have kept themselves out of the Church.

“When our brothers and sisters who, because of broken relations, broken families and broken lives, stand timidly at the doors of our churches—and of our lives—unsure whether they are welcome or not, let us go out to meet them,” the bishops say in their letter.

The new document on love in the family comes as the final reflection of the 2014 and 2015 synod held at the Vatican on the beauty and challenges of family life.

The bishops warn about what they call the beguiling treatment of the document by the secular media that tends to focus on difficult situations, like divorce, discussed in The Joy of Love.

“It should be made clear that the Holy Father does not in any way depart from the teaching of the Church as contained in the creeds, the conciliar documents and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” the bishops’ statement stresses.

“Understandably then, the exhortation is written with an awareness of the many challenges, difficulties, even threats to families and the different reasons why they sometimes sadly are dysfunctional,” it adds.

Signed by Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the president of the bishops’ conference, the statement says that the pope is issuing a challenge to pastors and their communities “to work for the transformation of families into seats of mercy.” Archbishop Villegas reminded the priests of The Philippines to inspire the laity and to use the talents, capacities and gifts of the members of the community, adding that such endeavours must be inclusive and dialogical.

“The members of the families themselves with none excluded should be agents of transformation and a new evangelisation for the domestic Church,” Archbishop Villegas added.

Although the bishops say that concrete guidelines will follow, they emphasises the need for “an openness of heart and of spirit that needs no law, awaits no guideline, nor bides on prompting.”

They stress, “It can and should happen immediately” in urging parishes and dioceses to be schools of true Christian love, where all should be attended to with care and with devotion.

“When families fail, we must all strike our breasts in contrition, for every Catholic community, every parish, for every diocese has a stake in the cohesion, love and constancy of a family,” the bishops conclude.

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