In apparent break from Catholic teaching, Pope is said to have phoned remarried
Argentine Jacqui Lisbona to say 'nothing wrong' in her taking Holy Communion
The reportedly told the woman 'A divorcee who takes communion is not doing anything wrong'
Pope Francis reportedly told a woman “living in sin” with a divorced man that she is free to take
Holy Communion, in what appears to be a significant departure from Catholic teaching.
Jacqui Lisbona, who is from the Pope’s homeland of Argentina, wrote to the Jesuit pontiff to tell
him that she had been refused Communion by her local priest, who objected to the fact that she was
married to a previously divorced man.
Prohibited from marrying in church, they had instead opted for a civil ceremony.
“[The priest] told me that every time I went home, I was going back to living in sin,” she said.
In her letter, Mrs Lisbona, who has two teenage daughters with her current husband after 19 years
of marriage, said she was worried that if she did take Communion – perhaps in a church where she
was not known to the priest - she would be “violating Church rules”.The Pope, who since being elected 13 months ago has established a reputation for phoning ordinary
Catholics out of the blue in response to letters they have sent, called her at her home in the central
region of Santa Fe on Easter Monday.
He reportedly told her: “A divorcee who takes communion is not doing anything wrong.”
In a rebuke to the local priest who refused her the Sacrament, he added: “There are some priests
who are more papist than the Pope.”
When asked whether the remarks attributed to the Pope were correct, a Vatican spokesman told
The Telegraph: “We would neither confirm nor deny that - this was a private telephone call made by
the Holy Father and we would not divulge the details.”
But the reported remarks were in line with the position taken by Pope Francis in recent months –
that the Church should treat divorcees and their partners with more compassion.
The remarks may indicate that the Pope, who has struck a much more inclusive tone than his
predecessor, Benedict XVI, on issues ranging from homosexuality to same-sex unions, is testing
the water with the intention of changing the Church’s position.
The surprising exchange was first revealed by Mrs Lisbona’s husband, Julio Sabetta, who said he
first answered the call from the Pope, before handing the phone to his wife.
“One of the most wonderful things in my life has just happened – receiving a telephone call from
none other than Papa Francesco,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“We’re Catholics, we believe in God, and though we don’t go to Mass every Sunday, every evening
we thank the Lord for our family and our work,” Mr Sabetta, a pastry chef, said.
The phone call from the Pope came six months after Mrs Lisbona sent her letter to him.
Introducing himself as “Father Bergoglio” – his given name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio – the South
American pontiff said he was sorry it had taken him so long to make the call.
“It is an issue we are discussing in the Vatican, because a divorcee who takes communion is not
doing anything wrong,” the Pope reportedly said during a conversation lasting 10 minutes.
The Catholic Church currently maintains that unless a first marriage is annulled, Catholics who
remarry cannot receive Communion because they are essentially living in sin and committing
Such annulments are often impossible to obtain, or can take years to process, a problem that hasleft many Catholics feeling rejected by the Church.
Since being elected in March last year, Pope Francis has on several occasions called for a more
merciful approach to the problem.
In February he said divorced and separated couples should not be excluded from Church activities,
in remarks which also raised speculation that he may one day lift the ban on divorcees receiving
He told a group of Polish bishops that priests should “ask themselves how to help (divorced
couples), so that they don't feel excluded from the mercy of God, the fraternal love of other
Christians, and the Church's concern for their salvation.”
He has also called on the Church hierarchy to re-evaluate the way that priests and bishops can
engage with the children of same-sex couples and divorcees, urging them to "consider how to
proclaim Jesus Christ to a generation that is changing".
The push for a more inclusive approach towards divorced Catholics has been led by Cardinal
Walter Kasper, a German theologian, who has called for "openings and changes" in how the Church
confronts the issue.
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