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Pope reflects on his own message

PORT MYTILENE (CWN): In a question-and-answer session with reporters who accompanied the pope on his April 16 visit to the Greek island of Lesvos, Pope Francis acknowledged that his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia) has changed the Church’s approach to the reception of communion by Catholics who are divorced and remarried.

But he stressed that the question is by no means the most important issue covered in his letter to the world.

However, he said that he was disappointed with the media coverage of the Synod on Marriage and Family Life, as it did not reflect the reality of the discussion.

He said, “When I convoked the first synod, the great concern of the majority of the media was whether divorced and remarried Catholics would have access to communion.

“And since I am not a saint, this bothered me, and also made me rather sad, because I thought, do you not realise that that is not the important problem? Don’t you realise that instead the family throughout the world is in crisis? The family is the basis of society.

“Do you not realise that the young don’t want to marry? Don’t you realise that the falling birth rate in Europe is something to cry about? Don’t you realise that the lack of work or the little work available means that a mother has to get two jobs and her children grow up alone? These are the big problems.”

In responding to questions that specifically addressed whether he had called for a change on the practice of communion for the divorced and remarried, the pope replied, “I could say yes, but it would be too brief an answer.”

Instead of a direct response, he encouraged reporters to refer to the presentation of the apostolic exhortation given by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn at a press conference in the Vatican.

Pope Francis also fielded several questions about immigration and his gesture of bringing a dozen refugees back from Lesvos to live in Rome under Vatican sponsorship.

“It is a small gesture,” he said. “But we must all make these little gestures—all men and women—to lend a hand to those in need.”

Pope Francis said that in selecting the families to be brought to Rome, he “did not make a choice between Christians and Muslims.” The three families chosen, he said, “had their documents in order.”

Speaking more generally about immigration, the pope acknowledged that European nations face a big challenge in trying to integrate migrants into their culture.

But he observed that the failure to do so can be dangerous. He also pointed out that some terrorists responsible for recent attacks in Europe are actually descendants of people who were born on the continent.

Pope Francis said in response to one question that he understands why many Europeans feel the influx of foreigners as a burden and worry about the preservation of a cohesive culture.

However he insisted, “Closing borders does not solve anything.”

When questioned about his short meeting with Bernie Sanders, the United States of America presidential candidate, Pope Francis emphasised that it had been a quick encounter, “A handshake and nothing more, a question of politeness, not attempting to get mixed up in American politics.”

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