Pope Francis released a highly anticipated document aimed at guiding family life for the world's Catholics Friday.
Titled Amoris Laetitia, or "Joy of Love" in Latin, Pope Francis' second exhortation prescribes not doctrine, but establishes guidance for family life among the world's Catholic faithful.
The exhortation follows key meetings among church leaders in recent years, ultimately taking the Pope nearly two years to write. The document coveys messages on important issues, and is aimed at those who feel excluded.
Through more than 250 pages, it encourages pastors to meet people where they are and teaches that a one-size-fits-all approach to church teachings leaves "no room for individual discernment."
Edward Herrera, director of the office of marriage and family at the Baltimore Archdiocese said it encourages the church to look at how it can "invite individuals who might be in a complex situation to really be able to participate more fully." Central to that message, Herrera said, is examining how the church may welcome "families in the muddiness of life."
Chief among all issues is the right to Holy Communion, off-limits for divorced and re-married Catholics who have not gone through the process of annulment.
Francis signaled that may change...
The Pope also confirmed church teachings on gay-marriage, but said that idea has been forced through an "ideal."
On the issue of gay men and women, Francis wrote that those individuals should be respected, which included those in the LGBT community, he wrote.
While applauding the Pope's acknowledgment, Catholic LGBT advocacy group New Ways Ministry executive director Francis DeBernardo said the Pope's document "missed opportunities."
"He could have given more specific direction about pastoral care with LGBT people," he said in a phone interview Friday. "I would have liked to have seen him speak out against laws around the globe which are criminalizing LGBT people."
The document will be studied for all its interpretations moving forward, Herrera said.