Africa: No Communion to Civilly Remarried

News: World News
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  March 22, 2017   

Fr. Odozor: "We settled that long ago. They can't"

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ROME ( - The principal organizer of a major African conference held in Rome this week said Africans know that civilly remarried Catholics can't receive the sacraments — and they're ok with it.

Nigerian Fr. Paulinus Odozor during an interview in Rome Monday related that the African bishops have no interest in changing Church teaching to allow the divorced and civilly remarried to receive the sacraments. When asked about this specific issue, the priest answered, "No, because we settled that long ago. They can't." He added, "Everyone's okay with it."

"If you go to the ordinary parishes in most of Africa, you will find that people who are in the situation you're talking about would not present themselves for Communion because they already accept that these are the rules," he explained. "It's not an issue."

Asked if that was true in all of Africa, Fr. Odozor replied, "I think so. Basically, our problem in Africa is not with divorce, remarriage and Catholics receiving the sacraments. Our problem is what to do with polygamy and polygamous families and so on."

The conference in Rome this week that Fr. Odozor helped organize is called African Christian Theology: Memories and Mission for the 21st Century. It runs from March 22–25 and is hosted by Notre Dame's Global Gateway Center. Father Odozor is a theologian who teaches at the University of Notre Dame.

It's even less of an issue for Africans now, Fr. Odozor explained, because people can have the validity of their marriages so easily vetted by the Church's annulment tribunals. "It's not an issue, especially given that people now have a chance to examine their marriages and ask if they were validly done [through the annulment process]. If it was validly done, then, well ... too bad!"

We settled that long ago. They can't.

The priest was asked to compare Africa's discussion of Amoris Laetitia to the debate raging in the West, principally centered on the issue of admitting active adulterers to Holy Communion.

"We in Africa sometimes wonder at the way Catholicism in the West takes just one issue and runs with it, without looking at the whole context," said Fr. Odozor. "It's terrible ... even if there is a debate over divorced and remarried Catholics and Communion, that shouldn't be taken out of context," he noted.

The subject then switched to Pope Francis, and the priest was asked how he and fellow Africans felt about the Holy Father. "They love him, they love him," Fr. Odozor said. He explained they only wished he would visit Africa more often. "Holy Father, if you're listening, we love you and we'd love to have you around."

"He doesn't always put things in grand theological language," he noted. Speaking of him as a pastor, Father admitted, "You may not always like what they do, but you respect the intention. ... We theologians might spend a lot of time arguing over this or that, and that's okay, that's what we're paid to do, but the people love him."


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