Church urged to welcome ‘unconventional couples’ by Italian bishops’ leader

The Church should make “unconventional couples” feel at home instead of making them targets of “de facto discrimination,” the leader of the Italian bishops’ conference has said.

“Couples in irregular matrimonial situations are also Christians, but they are sometimes looked upon with prejudice,” said Bishop Nunzio Galantino, an apparent reference to divorced and remarried Catholics.

“The burden of exclusion from the sacraments is an unjustified price to pay, in addition to de facto discrimination,” he said in an address to a national conference on liturgy in the Italian town of Orvieto.

Bishop Galantino was Francis’ choice in March to lead the Italian hierarchy. He has often landed himself in hot water by saying the Church needs to think more about the need to welcome gays Catholics and to consider whether or not celibacy ought to be made optional for priests.

Bishop Galantino’s remarks were widely reported in Italian media, including Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian hierarchy, and were translated by the Italian news agency ANSA. In his talk, Dr Galantino stressed that everyone should “feel at home” in the Church, and especially at Mass — including migrants, the disabled, the poor and those in unconventional relationships.

He spoke about the need for parishes to make their buildings accessible for those with disabilities, for example, and said Catholics should take care that the poor are not treated differently from the wealthy at Mass. But he appeared to send a strong message about divorced and remarried Catholics who are excluded from the sacraments. “They live in their situation with great suffering,” he said, “and they perceive the Church’s regulations as very severe, not compassionate if not punitive.”