A document released by Pope Francis eight days ago may have disappointed many who expected radical changes, but a cleric believes it will reform the way Catholics treat victims of bad marriages.
The release, which is the second from the pontiff after another one in November 2013, had a range of points that included ordering the church to be more tolerant to single mothers and divorcees, shunning gay marriages among others.
Father Dr George Kocholickal, who is a family ministry lecturer at Tangaza University College, has been studying the 256-page document and his deduction is that it will make Catholic clerics pay more attention to young couples to stem family breakdowns.
“What I am foreseeing is that there will be greater emphasis in accompanying people in their married life in preparation for marriage. I think the parishes and the diocesan churches will lay more emphasis in preparing couples for marriage,” he told the Sunday Nation.
Dr Kocholickal said Catholics are bound to follow the direction given by the Pope given the authority he carries.
“The Pope is the successor of St Peter and who takes the place of Jesus in this world. So, when he teaches, he is with the authority that he has as the successor of St Peter, the most important disciple among the 12 and also representing Jesus for us into the church and the whole world,” said the priest of the Order of Salesians of Don Bosco.
The Archbishop of Nairobi, John Cardinal Njue, said he was awaiting the full version of the document from the Pope — titled Amoris Laetitia or “The Joy of Love” — before he can comment on it.
“What I have is a kind of summary… but I do not have the whole document. I would prefer to have the full document,” he told Sunday Nation.
Dr Kocholickal, who has been analysing the electronic version of the document, observed that the so-called single parents, who are often frowned upon, will feel more welcome.
“That situation is widespread. In some places, some communities may tend to look down on this mother,” said the lecturer who has been a priest for 26 years.
In the document, the Pope orders Catholics from different backgrounds to form large families through which various distressed individuals can be accommodated.
“This larger family should provide love and support to teenage mothers, children without parents, single mothers left to raise children, persons with disabilities needing particular affection and closeness, young people struggling with addiction, the unmarried, separated or widowed who are alone,” the pontiff writes.
Elsewhere in the document, the Pope also says: “It is important that the divorced who have entered a new union should be made to feel part of the Church.”
But he reiterates a statement made by Pope John Paul II that divorce should be a last resort in any marriage “after all other reasonable attempts at reconciliation have proved vain”.
Exhortations like the one Pope Francis released come after the leader of the Catholic Church has held a meeting with bishops’ representatives, called the synod, and in them the Pope gives his final word on issues discussed.
“After every synod, there is an apostolic exhortation — which is bringing together what the bishops shared there and the Pope reflects on that and he decides to share it with the rest of the world… He gives authority to whatever was said,” Dr Kocholickal said.