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ROME (CNS) -- Recent remarks by Pope Francis about the need for a stronger pastoral approach to marriage and divorced couples, do not signal the church is overturning its laws or practice of denying communion to Catholics who divorce and remarry, said two canon law experts.
When Pope Francis made parenthetical reference to the Orthodox churches permitting, in some cases, a second marriage, he was referring to an issue that has been under discussion for decades, said U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature.
The pope told reporters July 28 during his flight to Rome from Rio de Janeiro that "the Orthodox have a different practice." They "follow the theology of 'oikonomia' (economy or stewardship), as they call it, and give a second possibility; they permit" a second marriage, the pope had said.
Cardinal Burke, who spoke Sept. 16 at a renewal course on marriage law hosted by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, told Catholic News Service that talking about the differences between the way the Orthodox churches and the Catholic Church handle the breakup of marriages "is a discussion that's been going on for decades."
He said he took the pope's remarks to journalists in July to mean that "the Holy Father is simply saying that this discussion should be taken seriously."
While it's important "to understand very carefully the sense of the Oriental practice," he said it's just as crucial to understand and put into practice the Catholic Church's "evangelical duty" to defend marriage as Jesus taught in the Gospel according to St. Matthew.