VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Reports that Pope Francis told an Argentine woman civilly married to a divorced man that she can receive Communion “cannot be confirmed as reliable,” said Jesuit Father Federico, the Vatican spokesman.
Julio Sabetta, 50, wrote on his Facebook page that Pope Francis phoned his wife, Jacquelina Lisbona, April 20 at their home in Argentina, identifying himself as “Father Bergoglio.” He said he was calling in regard to a letter she had written him last September about not being able to receive Communion because Sabetta was divorced.
Media in Argentina, Italy, England and then all over the world picked up the story based on Sabetta’s claim that his wife told him Pope Francis told her she could receive Communion, although her parish priest had told her that was not possible unless Sabetta received an annulment and the two married in the church.
Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, who is serving as an assistant to Father Lombardi, told reporters April 23 that Pope Francis had phoned Lisbona, but said the content of the conversation was private.
Father Lombardi, in his formal statement April 24, said the pope often phones people, but since the calls “do not in any way form part of the pope’s public activities, no information or comments are to be expected” from the Vatican press office.
“That which has been communicated in relation to this matter,” he said, and its “consequent media amplification cannot be confirmed as reliable and is a source of misunderstanding and confusion.”
While Pope Francis has made it clear the church should find a pastoral approach to helping divorced and remarried Catholics, he has said any decisions on how to handle such situations would have to be discussed by the Synod of Bishops, which will meet in October and again in 2015.
“Consequences relating to the teaching of the church are not to be inferred” from anything the pope may have said to Lisbona, Father Lombardi said.