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Bishop Raica shares initial reaction to new Apostolic Exhortation "Amoris Laetitia"
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Today, our Holy Father Pope Francis published his most recent Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, the fruit of the Synod on the Family that occurred in two sessions, October 2014 and October 2015. Both of these sessions explored the joys and challenges of family life in our modern world within the parameters of various cultures around the world in light of Church teaching and lived experience.
Surely it was no easy task to knit together a formalized response and a direction forward based on the vast amounts of information that was amassed. Our Holy Father’s response is a blend of various factors: God’s vision for the family as illustrated in Sacred Scripture; previous Church teaching; the outcomes of the two Synods; and a dose of pastoral insight.
For many, it will be a source of reflection for many years to come. The Exhortation is addressed to all, church leadership and families alike. I don’t believe one can have an immediate definitive conclusion about the Exhortation, which resulted from a long process, on a mere cursory perusal on the first day of its publication. I am looking forward to carefully reading the Holy Father’s message in the coming days and to discovering the full richness it contains. Much will be gleaned over the course of the next few years as families and individuals seek a deeper understanding of the issues presented in light of what God’s vision is for the human race.
Initially, however, we can say that the Apostolic Exhortation does remind us that family life is rarely, if ever, “perfect” from the start. There are tremendous joys when things go well. There is also the recognition that family life in our modern world oftentimes defies easy solutions to complex problems and circumstances. For that reason, Pope Francis urges us to “accompany” families and individuals in the circumstances in which they find themselves. Moreover, he urges that we offer acceptance and welcome to individuals, offering people opportunities to experience the “joy of love.”
As we study and reflect on the fullness of our Holy Father’s response, I urge you not to accept easily the glib criticisms of some or the reducing of the message to a short sound bite. Reflecting and praying about what our Holy Father is presenting is a tremendous opportunity to see the wonder of God’s hopes and dreams for each of us as part of the human family. In the end, we are loved beyond measure and are given the chance to walk with each other on the adventure of life.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Steven J. Raica
Bishop of Gaylord
More information and Frequently Asked Questions about Amoris Laetitia can be found on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.