The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith clarified in a letter Wednesday that single mothers should not be afraid to receive communion. 

The letter, addressed to Bishop Ramón Alfredo de la Cruz Baldera of the Dominican Republic, responded to the prelate’s inquiry regarding single mothers who “abstain from communion out of fear of the rigorism of the clergy and community leaders.”

“Women who, in this situation, have chosen life and who lead a very complex existence because of this choice should be encouraged to have access to the healing and consoling power of the sacraments,” the letter from the dicastery reads.

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The dicastery went on to cite a homily given by Pope Francis on the issue of spiritual mistreatment of single parents — delivered while he was still the cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires. 

“There are priests who do not baptize the children of single mothers because [the children] were not conceived in the sanctity of marriage. They are the hypocrites of today. They have clericalized the Church,” then-Cardinal Jorge Bergolio said in 2012. 

He continued, “They turn God’s people away from salvation. And that poor girl who could have sent her child back to the sender but had the courage to bring him into the world goes on pilgrimage from parish to parish to have him baptized.”

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In order to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, also known as the Eucharist, Catholics cannot be in a state of mortal sin. Fornication is included in this category. 

However, the Church also believes that God absolves any individual who confesses and repents of mortal sins — after which, full participation in the sacrament is allowed once again.

Catholics believe that the Eucharist the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ — it is the central sacrament of the Catholic Church.

The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith pointed to the biblical account of the adulterous woman in the Gospel of John.

The letter emphasized “the central message of this Gospel pericope, which is simply the invitation to recognize that no one can cast the first stone.”

“For this reason, Pope Francis, referring to mothers who must raise their children alone, reminds us that ‘in such difficult situations of need, the Church must be particularly concerned to offer understanding, comfort, and acceptance, rather than imposing straightaway a set of rules that only lead people to feel judged and abandoned by the very Mother called to show them God’s mercy,’” the letter reads.

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández composed the letter with final approval from Pope Francis.