After yesterday’s media confusion about a phone call Pope Francis made to a woman in Argentina regarding her reception of Communion, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi today made a statement confirming that the phone call did take place, but indicating that reports about what was said may not be reliable and have no bearing on Church teaching.
It has been widely reported that Pope Francis called Jaquelina Lisbona of San Lorenzo, Argentina on Easter Monday in response to a letter she sent him last fall. The Holy Father allegedly told her that she may receive Communion despite being married to a man who is divorced.
Today Father Lombardi stated:
Several telephone calls have taken place in the context of Pope Francis’ personal pastoral relationships.
Since they do not in any way form part of the Pope’s public activities, no information or comments are to be expected from the Holy See Press Office.
That which has been communicated in relation to this matter, outside the scope of personal relationships, and the consequent media amplification, cannot be confirmed as reliable, and is a source of misunderstanding and confusion.
Therefore, consequences relating to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred from these occurrences.
Meanwhile, Catholic News Agency has more information on the situation, including details about the couple in question and quotes from a local priest, who called the suggestion that the Pope had given permission for Lisbona to receive Communion “absurd.”
[Julio Sabetta, Lisbona’s husband] was married into the Catholic church in 1985, but got legally divorced in 1992. In 1994, he was re-introduced to Jaquelina – they had been boyfriend and girlfriend in their teens – and the two started to live together in a civil union. Since then, they had two children, Candela and Josefina, aged 17 and 14, respectively.
Six years ago, during Candela’s preparation for her confirmation – both daughters have been baptized, received first Holy Communion and have been confirmed – the local pastor at that time, who has been erroneously described as having left the priesthood by some news sources, told Jaquelina that she could not receive Communion because of her marital status.
Last September, encouraged by a friend, she decided to write Pope Francis about her situation and her desire to receive Communion.
The story of the Pope’s “permission” to Jaquelina to receive Communion was first posted on Monday evening by Sabetta on his Facebook Page when he wrote: “Today one of the most beautiful things happened to me since the birth of my two daughters, I got a call in my home from none other than Pope Francis, it was a big emotion, we cannot figure it out yet, this call was originated by my wife who sent him a letter and he took his time to call her and talk to her and I can assure you that we he talks, he gives you total peace. Thanks God for this blessing!” …
What the Pope exactly told Jaquelina is a matter of controversy. Speaking to La Red, Jaquelina said that after talking for about ten minutes with the Pope, he allegedly told her that there are some priests that are “more Papist than the Pope” and that she should “go to confession and start taking communion at a different parish.”
In a second interview, overwhelmed by the international attention and the phone calls from around the world, she confirmed that she received “permission” to receive Communion by the Pope, but she complained: “this was supposed to be discrete, now I don’t think I will be able to go anywhere now.”
Since Wednesday, Jaquelina has not been available for comments. …
Sabetta instead has been happy to respond to the press. According to his version: “Francisco told my wife that she was free from all sin, that she should go to communion, that she should go with peace of mind, since a divorced who goes (to Communion) is doing nothing wrong.”
“He only told her to go to communion to another parish to avoid frictions (with the pastor.)”
But the pastor of San Lorenzo’s church, Fr. José Ceschi, said late on Wednesday that the alleged “permission” to receive communion given by the Pope is “absurd.”
Speaking to local radio station La Ocho, Fr. Ceschi said that “first of all, I am very happy to know that the Pope called someone in San Lorenzo, the Pope surprises with these calls and people is so surprised, and that makes me happy. I do believe in the call, but what is hard to believe is that he gave her permission to go to communion.”
“The Pope would never do that, is impossible. If he is coming from a previous sacrament and they are living together is absolutely impossible,” Fr. Ceschi told the radio station.
“What happens is that the Pope, like all bishops and priests, needs to be father, mother and teacher, always with an open heart, while telling things as they are.”
Speaking of his predecessor, who told Jaquelina that she could not receive communion, the priest noted that “Fr. Sergio was right, if a previous sacrament of marriage is involved, the Church cannot go beyond what Jesus has taught.” …
“Again, I believe that the call happened, I just don’t believe the Pope would go over the head of the (local) bishop – it is absurd,” he reiterated.