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 CNS Story:

POPE-ABORTION Apr-7-2008 (540 words) xxxi

Pope: Take Gospel of mercy to those who've divorced, had abortions

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI said the church must bring the "Gospel of mercy" to those involved in abortion and divorce, showing sensitivity to the inner burdens they bear.

He made the remarks April 5 in a meeting with participants of an international conference on the aftermath of abortion and divorce.

The pope said both practices had created much suffering in modern society, particularly among innocent victims, leaving wounds that affect people's lives permanently.

He said abortion in particular produces "devastating consequences" for the woman involved, for the family and for society, helping promote a materialistic mentality that shows contempt for life.

"How much selfish complicity often lies at the root of the painful decision that so many women have had to make alone and whose unhealed wound they carry in their souls," he said.

To women who have had an abortion, the pope urged them not to be overwhelmed by discouragement and hopelessness and to open themselves to repentance.

The pope said the church's ethical teachings about abortion and divorce are well known. Although they are of a different nature, both acts are considered grave offenses to human dignity and an offense to God, he said.

In addition, he said, both abortion and divorce create innocent victims: "the child recently conceived and still unborn and the children affected by the breakup of family ties."

He said one of the church's pastoral priorities should be to help children of divorced parents, as much as is possible, to maintain ties with both parents and to be aware of their family origins.

At the same time, the pope said, the church recognizes that such decisions are often made in dramatic and difficult circumstances and that they also bring suffering to those who commit them.

"Following the example of the divine teacher, the church always takes an interest in the concrete person," he said.

Many of the men and women involved in abortion and divorce are troubled by guilt and "are looking for peace and the possibility of recovery," and the church must approach them with love and sensitivity, he said.

"Yes, the Gospel of love and life is also always the Gospel of mercy, offered to the real and sinful people that we are, to raise them from any failing and repair any wound," he said.

The pope quoted Pope John Paul II to emphasize that by showing mercy, the church demonstrates its faith in the human being and in human freedom.

Although public opinion is often focused on the church's "no's" in matters of morality, its teachings are really "a great 'yes' to the human person, to his life and his capacity to love," he said.

The pope said the public debate over issues like abortion and divorce is often purely ideological, neglecting the real needs of those directly involved. This is where the church is called upon to offer an attitude of merciful love, he said.

The Rome conference had as its theme: "Oil on the Wounds: A Response to the Aftermath of Divorce and Abortion." It was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family.


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