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A church of acceptance

| Wednesday, April 13, 2016

On April 8, Pope Francis released an apostolic exhortation titled “Amoris Laetitia,” Latin for “The Joy of Love.” As the Catholic tradition calls for love and mutual respect, this aptly-titled, revolutionary document calls for priests and members of the Catholic Church to welcome single parents, gay people and unmarried couples who live together into the Church with open arms and non-judgmental attitudes.

While the document does not change Catholic doctrine, it truly shows the changing modernity of the church, which is crucial during a time when more and more young people report feeling alienated from the faith. Instead of alienating those who do not fit the traditional family model, these new guidelines on family life show that the Church should be more understanding of the reality of the modern world.

“By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and growth,” Pope Francis writes.

Most notably, Pope Francis called on local bishops and priests to incite change, noting that different countries or regions can interpret doctrine in different ways, in order to “seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs.” This response to the complexity and diversity of the global church is necessary. There are over 1.3 billion people who identify as Roman Catholics, each of whom individual backgrounds and who should be accepted into the Church regardless of personal situations.

Additionally, Pope Francis makes it clear that “the verbal, physical and sexual violence that women endure in some marriages contradicts the very nature of the conjugal union,” regardless of cultural practices. “I think of the reprehensible genital mutilation of women practiced in some cultures, but also of their lack of equal access to dignified work and roles of decision-making.” Once again, the pope is addressing modern issues and leading Catholics around the world on a path to tolerance through Christ.

I find it particularly important the pope addressed the treatment of homosexual Catholics in the Church. He writes, “Every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration.”

I fully believe this statement echoes the tradition of John 13:34-35, in which Jesus calls on his disciples to “love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus announces to the world, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This is a clear denunciation of violence and hatred against homosexuals, which many have come to associate with the Church. In his exhortation, the pope makes clear that anything less than respect for a neighbor is unacceptable.

“I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness,” he writes.

It is important for the church to reflect modern culture while still being rooted in tradition. The tradition of the Gospel is not rooted in just words printed on a page, it is rooted in love and acceptance of all people. Here, the pope makes it clear to Catholics around the world that they can find a home in God regardless of circumstance. This message, a message of love and acceptance, is the most important thing the pope could share.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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