BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — What Pope Francis may tell Roman Catholics in private telephone conversations doesn’t reflect church policy, the Vatican’s spokesman said Thursday.
An unusual statement from the Rev. Federico Lombardi came after days of speculation that the pope wants to change Roman Catholic Church rules barring Holy Communion for faithful people who remarry after getting divorced.
The question arose after Francis reportedly called an Argentine woman who had written to him for guidance, saying her parish priest had denied her access to the sacraments because her spouse’s previous marriage had not been annulled.
The woman’s husband, Julio Sabetta, said Francis told his wife that she was free of sin and should take communion anyway.
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Sabetta said he took the call from Argentina’s former archbishop, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, on Monday afternoon at their home in San Lorenzo, in the Argentine province of Santa Fe.
“The man asked for my wife. I said, ‘Who’s calling?’ And he said, ‘Father Bergoglio’ … just like he’s another member of the family,” Sabetta told the Cadena 3 radio station.
Sabetta said his wife, Jacqui Lisbona, then took the call and spoke with the pope.
“He said that she has been freed of all sin, that he blessed the whole family, that she’s free to take communion from here on out, and he asked that we pray for him,” Sabetta said.
Word spread after Sabetta posted on Facebook that the pope had called. Then came news stories speculating that Francis will do away with the ban on divorced people — or their spouses — from taking communion and full membership in the church.
The pope has called a synod in October to discuss a range of family issues, including contraception, marriage and divorce.
The pope reportedly told Lisbona to ignore her local priest, observing that some Catholics “try to be more papist than the pope,” and advised her to take communion in some other parish.
Lombardi’s statement — issued in Italian, English and Spanish — cautioned that “consequences related to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred” from the pope’s private conversations.