' Bishop Schneider Prayer Appeal


Bishops of Kazakhstan Prayer Appeal

Appeal to prayer:
That Pope Francis may confirm the unchanging praxis of the Church
with regard to the truth of the indissolubility of marriage.

Following the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, in some particular churches there were published norms for its application and interpretations whereby the divorced who have attempted civil marriage with a new partner, notwithstanding the sacramental bond by which they are joined to their legitimate spouse, are admitted to the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist without fulfilling the duty, established by God, of ceasing to violate the bond of their existing sacramental marriage.

Cohabitation more uxorio with a person who is not one's legitimate spouse represents, at the same time, an offense to the Covenant of Salvation, of which sacramental marriage is a sign (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2384), and an offense to the nuptial character of the Eucharistic mystery itself. Pope Benedict XVI revealed such a correlation when he wrote: "The Eucharist inexhaustibly strengthens the indissoluble unity and love of every Christian marriage. By the power of the sacrament, the marriage bond is intrinsically linked to the Eucharistic unity of Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride, the Church (cf. Eph 5:31-32)” (Apostolic Exhortation Sacrosanctum caritatis, 27).

Pastors of the Church who tolerate or authorize, even in individual or exceptional cases, the reception of the sacrament of the Eucharist by the divorced and so-called "remarried,” without their being clothed in the "wedding garment," despite the fact that God himself has prescribed it in Sacred Scripture (cf. Matt. 22:11 and 1 Cor. 11:28-29) as the necessary requirement for worthy participation in the nuptial Eucharistic supper, such pastors are complicit in this way with a continual offense against the sacramental bond of marriage, the nuptial bond between Christ and the Church and the nuptial bond between Christ and the individual soul who receives his Eucharistic Body.

Several particular Churches have issued or recommended pastoral guidelines with this or a similar formulation: "If then this choice [of living in continence] is difficult to practice for the stability of the couple, Amoris laetitia does not exclude the possibility of access to Penance and the Eucharist. That signifies something of an openness, as in the case where there is a moral certainty that the first marriage was null, but there are not the necessary proofs for demonstrating such in the judicial process. Therefore, there is no reason why the confessor, at a certain point, in his own conscience, after much prayer and reflection, should not assume the responsibility before God and the penitent asking that the sacraments be received in a discreet manner."

The previously mentioned pastoral guidelines contradict the universal tradition of the Catholic Church, which by means of an uninterrupted Petrine Ministry of the Sovereign Pontiffs has always been faithfully kept, without any shadow of doubt or of ambiguity, either in its doctrine or its praxis, in that which concerns the indissolubility of marriage.

The norms mentioned and pastoral guidelines contradict moreover in practice the following truths and doctrines that the Catholic Church has continually taught as being sure:

Notwithstanding repeated declarations concerning the immutability of the teaching of the Church concerning divorce, several particular churches nowadays accept divorce in their sacramental practice, and the phenomenon is growing. Only the voice of the Supreme Pastor of the Church can definitively impede a situation where in the future, the Church of our time is described with the following expression: "All the world groaned and noticed with amazement that it has in practice accepted divorce" (ingenuit totus orbis et divortium in praxi se accepisse miratus est), evoking an analogous saying by which St Jerome described the Arian crisis.

Given this very real danger and the widespread plague of divorce within the life of the Church, which is implicitly legitimized by the mentioned norms and applications of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia; given that the aforementioned norms and guidelines from some particular churches as a result of today's global culture are in the public domain; given, furthermore, the ineffectiveness of numerous appeals made privately and in a discreet manner to Pope Francis both by many faithful and by some Shepherds of the Church, we are forced to make this urgent appeal to prayer. As successors of the Apostles, we are also moved by the obligation of raising our voices when the most sacred things of the Church and the matter of eternal salvation of souls are in question.

May the following words, with which St John Paul II described the unjust attacks against the faithfulness of the Church’s Magisterium, be a light for all pastors of the Church in these difficult times and encourage them to act in an increasingly united manner: "The Church's Magisterium is often chided for being behind the times and closed to the promptings of the spirit of modern times, and for promoting a course of action which is harmful to humanity, and indeed to the Church herself. By obstinately holding to her own positions, it is said, the Church will end up losing popularity, and more and more believers will turn away from her” (Letter to families, Gratissimam sane, 12).

Considering that the admission of the divorced and so-called "remarried" to the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, without requiring of them the obligation to live in continence, constitutes a danger for the faith and for the salvation of souls and furthermore constitutes an offense to the holy will of God; furthermore, taking into consideration that such pastoral practice can never be the expression of mercy, of the "via caritatis" or of the maternal sense of the Church towards souls that are sinning, we make with profound pastoral solicitude this urgent appeal to prayer that Pope Francis may revoke in an unequivocal manner the aforementioned pastoral guidelines which are already introduced in several particular churches. Such an act of the Visible Head of the Church would comfort the shepherds and the faithful of the Church, according to the mandate which Christ, the Supreme Shepherd of souls, has given to the Apostle Peter, and through him to all his successors: "Confirm your brethren!" (Luke 22:32).

May the following words of a holy Pope and of St Catherine of Siena, a Doctor of the Church, be a light and a comfort for all in the Church of our days:

"Error when not resisted, is accepted. Truth, which is not defended, is oppressed” (Pope St Felix III, +492). "Holy Father, God has elected you in the Church, so that you might be an instrument for the stamping out of heresy, the confounding of lies, the exaltation of the Truth, the dissipation of darkness and the manifestation of light"(St Catherine of Siena, +1380).

When Pope Honorius I (625 - 638) adopted an ambiguous attitude towards the spreading of the new heresy of Monothelitism, Saint Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, sent a bishop from Palestine to Rome, saying to him the following words: "Go to the Apostolic See, where are the foundations of holy doctrine, and do not cease to pray till the Apostolic See condemn the new heresy.” The condemnation occurred in 649 through the holy pope and martyr Martin I.

We make this appeal to prayer conscious that our failure to do so would have been a serious omission. Christ, the Truth and the Supreme Shepherd, will judge us when He appears. We ask Him, with humility and confidence, to reward all the shepherds and all the sheep with the imperishable crown of glory (cf. 1 Pet. 5:4).

In the spirit of faith and with filial and devout affection we raise our prayer for Pope Francis: "Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Francisco: Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat  eum in terra, et  non tradat eum in  animam inimicorum eius. Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam Meam, et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversus eam."

As a concrete means we recommend to recite every day this ancient prayer of the Church or a part of the holy rosary in the intention that Pope Francis may revoke in an unequivocal manner those pastoral guidelines, which permit the divorced and so-called “remarried” to receive the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist without asking them to fulfil the obligation of a life in continence.

18 January 2017, the ancient feast of the Chair of Saint Peter in Rome

+ Tomash Peta, Metropolitan Archbishop of the archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana
+ Jan Pawel Lenga, Archbishop-Bishop emeritus of Karaganda
+ Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana