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Rome Reports

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Pope Francis' take on who can and cannot receive Communion

Pope Francis responded to a question about whether or not politicians who support laws in favor of abortion should be allowed to receive Communion.

He began by answering whether he, as a bishop, has ever refused the Eucharist to anyone.

"I do not know if anyone came (to me) who was in this situation, but I never refused the Eucharist. To this day as a priest never. But never have I been conscious of having a person in front of me as you describe. That is true."

He shared that he once gave a Jewish woman Communion, and only later realized that she was Jewish. The Pope turns to theology to explain the essence of Communion, saying it is not a prize for the perfect.

"Communion is a gift, a gift, the presence of Jesus in his Church. It is in the community. This is the theology. Then, those who are not in the community cannot take Communion—like this Jewish lady, but the Lord wanted to reward her and without my knowledge. Why (can they not take Communion?) Because they are out of the community, excommunicated, they are “excommunicated” it is called. It's a harsh term, but what it means is they are not in the community, either because they do not belong, are not baptized, or they are baptized but have drifted away from some of the things."

Then he turned to the issue of abortion, firmly saying that human life must be respected and that abortion is murder.

"This is why the Church is so strict on this issue: because accepting this is kind of like accepting daily murder. Now let's return to the person who is not in the community and is not able to take Communion because he is outside of the community. This is not a penalty: you are outside. Communion unites the community."

He continued by explaining that the biggest problem of who can receive Communion is a pastoral problem, of how bishops manage the theological principle pastorally.

"I'll give the principle. You can say to me, 'But if you are a (pastor) who is close to the people, kind, and you show compassion for a person, would you give that person Communion?' This is a hypothesis, no? Be a pastor. And a pastor knows what he should do in every situation, but as a pastor. If he moves away from the Church's pastoral approach, then he immediately becomes a politician."

The Pope emphasized the importance of understanding the issue theologically and pastorally, and to turning to qualified theologians familiar with these issues for clarifications.

The Pope concluded his explanation on this topic by saying that the excommunicated “are outside temporarily, but they are children of God and they want, and need, our pastoral closeness.”