ROME – Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who heads the Vatican’s office for family on Thursday said that no one can be excluded from the pastoral care and love of the Church, even if the Church can’t bless same sex unions.

“Sometimes we fail to understand a distinction that must be made: When the Church speaks of marriage, [she] speaks of sacramental marriage, not to civil unions or other forms of marriage,” Farrell told reporters during a press conference on Thursday.

Farrell was speaking at a press conference via Zoom launcing the “Amoris Laetitia Family Year,” which will begin on March 19, the fifth anniversary of the publication of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation.

The prelate was specifically asked to comment on a recent document released by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith restating the Church’s stance against the blessing of same-sex couples. Published on Monday, the document was signed by Spanish Cardinal Luis Ladaria, with Pope Francis’s explicit consent.

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During Thursday’s press conference, Farrell acknowledged that even though the pope’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia speaks to sacramental marriage, it does not mean “that only those married on the Church receive the benefits of the Church’s pastoral care.”

“There are many different situations in the world today,” he said, adding that every parish in the world is called to accompany everyone, including the people who cannot have full participation in the life of the Church. This applies not only to gay couples but also civilly divorced and remarried Catholics and couples cohabitating without being married.

“I think that it’s very important that we all understand that the pastoral life of the Church is open to all people,” Farrell said. “It’s essential and very important that we always open our hearts to receive and accompany all people on all stages of life and in their different life situations.”

“The distinction I made between civil and sacramental marriage is very important when you speak about blessing of marriages,” he said. “Blessing is a sacramental and it’s related to the sacrament of marriage. Therefore, it can be difficult to understand, but I insist and would very much like everybody to understand that we are open to accompanying all people.”

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