Bishop Cunningham’s statement on the release of ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation

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Bishop Robert J. Cunningham released the following statement April 8:

This morning I watched the USCCB press conference on the release of “Amoris Laetitia,” featuring Archbishop Kurtz, Archdiocese of Louisville; Bishop Malone, Diocese of Buffalo; and Helen Alvare, Scalia Law Center, George Mason University. In the beginning of the press conference, Archbishop Kurtz stated that the much-anticipated Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, “Amoris Laetitia: On Love in the Family” is truly a “love letter to families and to the Catholic Church.” Signed on March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the exhortation brings together the results of both the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family. Nine lengthy chapters set out the complexity of a topic in urgent need of thorough study.

“Amoris Laetitia,” Latin for “the Joy of Love,” is mainly a reflection on family life with an invitation to embrace God’s love and mercy. Throughout the document, it is clear that much in the way we have grown accustomed to hearing from our Holy Father, Pope Francis approaches the complex issues surrounding family life, marriage, separation, divorce, same-sex marriage and homosexuality with a call for two things: dialogue and accompaniment. Pope Francis expects everyone who reads this exhortation to be challenged.

“Amoris Laetitia” does not change Church doctrine but it emphasizes a need to change Church practice or pastoral methods. He returns to his often-stated mantra that the Church needs to meet people where they are. Pope Francis understands that the human condition has its own struggles and the Church should walk with individuals, couples and families with great compassion. In his words, pastors are to “avoid judgments which do not take into account the complexity of various situations” (296).

Pope Francis’ challenge is simple: to change the focus regarding the family. He invites us to accompany, to integrate, and to remain close to anyone who has suffered the effects of wounded love; as the exhortation summarizes: “to enter into the reality of other people’s lives and to know the power of tenderness” (no. 308). This will certainly require careful reading and rereading by bishops, priests, and all involved with family ministry but I hope it will be read by many, especially those entering marriage or facing difficulties. “Amoris Laetitia” gives us much to think about in the Diocese of Syracuse as we support family life ministry. We seek to meet the challenges of contemporary family life with creativity and compassion.

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