Cardinal Donald Wuerl has issued a detailed plan for parishes to implement Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia – but has stopped short of taking an explicit position on Communion for the remarried.

The Pope’s exhortation, the Archbishop of Washington said in his 58-page pastoral plan, was a “call to compassionate accompaniment in helping all to experience Christ’s love and mercy”.

The archdiocese said the cardinal’s document – “Sharing in the Joy of Love in Marriage and Family” ­– was the first of its kind to implement Amoris Laetitia at the parish level. Copies in English and Spanish were sent to all 139 parishes in the archdiocese. Cardinal Wuerl also encouraged priests to read the plan and preach about it at Masses last weekend.

“The Church wishes, with humility and compassion, to reach out to the people and families who struggle to live the teaching on marriage, and to help them to overcome obstacles through discernment, dialogue, and prayerful support and understanding to overcome obstacles,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “Some may ask, ‘Is the teaching always binding?’ The answer of course is yes,” he said. But he urged pastors to take “a complementary perspective and to look with a parental attitude at those families who find themselves in a position where they struggle to even understand, let alone embrace fully, the teaching because of the concrete circumstances in which they live.”

One significant theme was the role of conscience, Cardinal Wuerl said.

“Prudential judgments of individuals about their own situation do not set aside the objective moral order,” he explained, but “a decision of conscience to act in one way or another requires guidance and spiritual formation. Priests are called to respect the decisions made in conscience by individuals who act in good faith, since no one can enter the soul of another and make that judgment for them.”

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