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Monday 17 May |
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Is Pope Francis ‘the son of divorced parents’?

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 08/09/16

This story has been making the rounds of social media:

In a document that lays down revised foundations for the Catholic Church’s teaching on a host of issues related to family life, Pope Francis reminded married couples that a good marriage is a dynamic process:

“Love does not have to be perfect for us to value it,” Pope Francis said in Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), a 200-page “apostolic exhortation” to the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

The document cites contemporary challenges faced by families throughout the world, reflecting on the Pope’s instinctive tendency to try to make the Church seem a more merciful, less judgmental body in relation to those faithful who find themselves in “irregular” situations.

In a lecture recently held at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City, a Jesuit academic and author explained that the apostolic exhortation asks the church to help families make good decisions in life, taking into consideration their own struggles and issues. “It is about taking the time, giving something the time it needs. Pope Francis wants us to be gradual about our pastoral care and not looking for instant results,” said Fr Michael Kirwan SJ, director of University of London’s Heythrop Institute for Religion and Society (HIRS).

The  story notes:

Kirwan underscored patience in the church’s pastoral care and ministry to families.The apostolic exhortation, he said, asked married couples, families, and pastoral ministers to care for those in need of the Lord’s mercy and healing.

Amoris Laetitia encouraged the church to consider the complexities of people’s lives and to respect people’s reasons behind their moral decisions.

Pope Francis, himself the son of divorced parents, said that the aim of the church is to “accompany, discern, and integrate” the people who fell short of the Christian ideals.

Whoa. That last paragraph made me do a double take. It has raised a few eyebrows around the Twitterverse, as well, with people wondering if it’s true.

I went scrambling through all the online resources I could find. No biography of the pontiff mentions anything about his parents being divorced.

I suspect that author of this story, Stephan Pedroza, is confusing Pope Francis with Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who has spoken of the trauma in his own life as a child of divorce.  He also might have conflated the pope’s biography with that of his sister—who is divorced.

To set the record straight:

[Jorge Bergoglio] was born in Buenos Aires on 17 December 1936, the son of Italian immigrants. His father Mario was an accountant employed by the railways and his mother Regina Sivori was a committed wife dedicated to raising their five children.

As far as I can tell, they stayed married their entire lives. (Also worth noting: divorce wasn’t legal in Argentina until 1987.) If anyone has other information, please let me know.

Photo: CNN

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