IT IS A far cry from MedJugorle in Yugoslavia to Cardiff In Wales, but the message of reconciliation Is the same. Here the Archbishop of Cardiff, John AJoysius Ward, Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin, gave a short talk recently to the Association of Separated and Div orced Catholics. Many of his audience were moved to tears of joy and relief at his understanding of their isolation and pain.
Thanks to Mr Paul Hayden of Gwent, Monmouth, the Association's Chairman, who attended the talk, here is the main import of the message which was given in the presence of the Association's Chaplain, Fr Francis O'Donnell.
"I wanted to be here today not to make a long speech but simply for me to be here. I hope that in my presence you will see the concern of the Church.
"I am sure that there are many of you here who have been hurt, and have not always been able to see the Church as a loving mother. Perhaps you have found in Church authority, In some groups, and even in certain priests, a lack of pastoral concern and understanding.
"My presence here this after noon is to put you very much on the agenda of genuine concern of the Church of Christ. I think bishops and priests have a lot to learn from you.
"I hope you will make it easy for us to listen to you by being articulate about your difficulties, and about your needs.
"There is a real pastoral ministry towards you, and I think the Church needs to do a lot more for you. There is no reason why people who are separated or divorced no matter what legal situation they are in should not be part of the life of the Church.
"There is a rich spiritual life available for all of you including those who, for some reason, may not be able to receive Holy Communion.
"Of course In theory the Church certainly has compassion for people in your difficult circumstances, but in practice this compassion is not always as good as it should be. I therefore welcome this Association of Separated and Divorced Catholics.
"I will be speaking to the clergy about it when I next meet with them. It is on our own agenda of concern. As Bishop of Menevia, and now as Archbishop of Cardiff, I have received many heart-breaking letters from people in your situation.
"I know we could do more for you. It is my hope that the Church of this Archdiocese will be a caring and compassionate Church, ready to serve you in whatever way is possible.
"I am really here today to say sorry If the Church has failed you in any way, and with that act of sorrow to have a firm purpose of amendment to try to help you more in the future.
"I hope that Fr O'Donnell wW help his brother priests and also his Archbishop to understand better the ways we can help you. I look upon him not only as the Chaplain of your Association, but as an important spokesman, and an ecclesiastical saviour within the Archdiocese.