Six bishops and a cardinal have reaffirmed the Church’s traditional teaching on Communion for the divorced and remarried in an apparent response to Pope Francis.

A statement issued by three Kazakhstan bishops had, at the time the Catholic Herald went to press, gained the backing of two Italian archbishops, an Austrian bishop and a Latvian cardinal.

The statement said that admitting divorced and remarried people to Communion was a “discipline alien to the entire tradition of the Catholic and apostolic faith” and that it was “not licit to justify, approve, or legitimise either directly or indirectly divorce and a non-conjugal stable sexual relationship through the sacramental discipline of the admission of so-called ‘divorced and remarried’ to Holy Communion”.

It was released by Archbishop Tomasz Peta of Saint Mary, Astana, Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of the same diocese and retired Archbishop Jan Paweł Lenga.

Last week Archbishop Carlo Viganò, the former papal nuncio to the United States, and Archbishop Luigi Negri, retired archbishop of Cremona, added their names to the text. They were followed by Cardinal Janis Pujats, retired archbishop of Riga, Latvia, and Bishop Andreas Laun, retired auxiliary bishop of Salzburg.

The statement noted that some bishops’ conferences had said that divorced and remarried Catholics may receive Communion even if living in a sexual relationship with their new partner. The traditional teaching of the Church, reaffirmed by St John Paul II and Benedict XVI, is that the remarried can only receive Communion if they resolve to refrain from sexual relations.

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