Catholic Bishop Paul Bird issues letter on marriage debate

Western Victoria’s top Catholic has issued an open letter to church-goers that urged them to consider Pope Francis’ position on same-sex marriage.

The carefully worded letter from Ballarat Diocese Bishop Paul Bird did not tell parishioners how to vote in the current federal government postal survey on same-sex marriage.

However it did detail “observations” Pope Francis made in a document issued last year titled, The Joy of Love: On Love in the Family.

The letter was sent to Catholic parishes in the diocese, which covers most of western Victoria including Ararat and Stawell.

In an email given to Fairfax Media, St Francis Xavier Primary School principal Paul Bissinella told parents he had been asked to provide a copy to each family in the school.

The Ballarat Catholic Education Office referred requests for comment to the Ballarat diocese.

In the letter Bishop Bird said Pope Francis was recognised as someone who shows deep respect for each person.

“He has often spoken of the need for the church to be close to people and walk with them in the complexity of their daily lives,” he said.

“This sensitivity to people’s different situations does not prevent the Pope from highlighting what he sees as the special value of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

“It is appropriate that this particular relationship has a particular name. The name the Pope uses is marriage.”

Some Ballarat churches have not told their congregation how to vote. Anglican Ballarat diocese Vicar-General Scott Lowrey said on Friday it was up to individuals how they voted.

Ebenezer St John’s Presbyterian minister Steve North cancelled the wedding of a couple after the bride posted a pro-same-sex marriage comment to Facebook.

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