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Pope Francis encourages debate on treatment of Catholics after divorce

In the first weekly public audience since his month-long summer break, Pope Francis announced that the Catholic church must consider making changes to the current policy regarding divorce and the treatment of its divorced members.

As Catholic church members are forbidden from participating in holy rites, such as receiving the Eucharist and taking Communion, the church’s stance on divorced and remarried members has led to many individuals becoming ostracized from their local church communities. While the number of divorced Catholics is lower than that of the general population, it is estimated that there are about 4.5 million Catholics in the U.S. who have been divorced and remarried without receiving an annulment from the church.

While Pope Francis has not proposed or endorsed any specific solutions to this trend, he made it very clear that these individuals “are not excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way” by the church and it’s members.

Although the Pope’s call to action has angered many of his detractors, there can be no doubt that a new approach to the treatment of divorced individuals within the Catholic church would be welcome by many.