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Buffalo Catholic Diocese cautiously welcomes Pope's "Joy of Love"

Speaking via web from Washington, D.C.
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

The head of the Buffalo Catholic Diocese is welcoming the Pope's Amoris Laetitia or The Joy of Love, released today as a guiding principal for the Church and its parishioners on the issues of marriage and family life. However, Bishop Richard Malone said he will not rush the interpretation and implementation of the long-awaited exhortation.Speaking from Washington, D.C., via an online Q&A, Malone said the 250-page exhortation, issued by Pope Francis after more than two years of consultations with Catholics around the world, references predecessors Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict and does not change doctrine. However, it does call for more compassion by the Church and its laity.

Malone said the concept of "accompaniment" is foremost throughout the long-anticipated document. He said the Pope is inspiring the Church to "find new ways" to actively support married or struggling couples - "not in the abstract, but in the concrete realities of their lives."

"He calls us constantly to walk with people in whatever be the situation of their lives, and so when it comes to our ministry with married people and including people who are in situations of divorce and remarriage, the Pope is calling us to embrace all of our people, whatever be their situation, to listen to their stories, to do everything we can to make sure they never feel excluded from the life of the Church," Malone said.

Malone made his comments as Chair of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but said his task once back in Buffalo will be to meet with staff to find every way to implement the exhortation "in all its invitations and challenges." The U.S.C.C.B. suggested it could be at least a year before change takes effect, but the Pope's document is expected to affect "every aspect of marriage."

Among the issues addressed in the exhortation are marriage, divorce, parents' rights, children's rights, feminism, sex and contraception. Malone said it will be used to review, grow and improve the Diocese's marriage programs, but the Diocese will take time to interpret and implement the guide based upon its entirety, not its pieces.

"I intend, when I get back to Buffalo, to look at what I really believe is already a very good marriage preparation program, but to see how it could be improved and enhanced by the Holy Father's call," Malone said. "In the exhortation, there is also a call for us to continue walking with our married couples after marriage in all the different phases and challenges of life. I want to make sure we are setting ourselves up to do that more effectively."