Those who are in irregular marital situations cannot receive Holy Communion but are still Christian faithful and “must feel at home” in Catholic churches, a leading Italian bishop has said. Bishop Nunzio Galantino of Cassano all’Jonio told a national liturgical gathering of the Center of Liturgical Action Aug. 27 in Orvieto, Italy that Holy Communion is “the sacramental act that excellently expresses the union with Christ and the Church.” The bishop, who serves as secretary general of the Italian bishops' conference, noted Catholic teaching that those in “an irregular marital situation” cannot receive Holy Communion “because of their condition.” He discussed how people in irregular relationships can feel this discipline as “very severe, not inclusive” and even “punitive” towards “the difficulties of marital life” or towards their choice to break up a relationship. “Often many people perceive the Church’s attitude as more severe than what it actually is, since they feel the fact they are not admitted to Sacraments as an exclusion from ecclesiastical life,” the bishop said. He said that Catholics should recognize that some of the faithful are excessively harsh towards those in irregular relationships and they erroneously see the Church’s discipline “as an exclusion of their brothers and sisters.” He said that some of the faithful sometimes look at people in irregular relationships “with a glance full of prejudice, as if their faith and their belonging to the Church was compromised.” “In addition to the burden of their non-admission to the sacraments, there is an unjustified de facto discrimination towards them, as an added price to pay.” “Even these people are Christian faithful, so they are part of the Church and in the Eucharistic assembly they are and they must feel at home,” the bishop said. One page of the bishop's 16-page speech addressed those in irregular marital relationships who cannot receive Communion. His broader remarks dealt with nurturing “a culture of mercy” in many areas for immigrants, the disabled, and the poor. Bishop Galantino said that current pastoral guidelines do not put in discussion Church doctrine and discipline that instruct those in irregular marital relationships to refrain from Holy Communion. Rather, they reaffirm the church membership of those in irregular relationships and suggest for them “paths of ecclesial life” and liturgical participation even though they cannot receive Holy Communion. Bishop Galantino has caused controversy with some of his previous remarks. In a May interview he appeared to denigrate pro-life witness outside of abortion clinics, saying “I don’t identify with the expressionless person who stands outside the abortion clinic reciting their rosary, but with young people, who are still against this practice, but are instead fighting for quality of life, their health, their right to work.” The bishop was criticized for his claim that Catholics “have concentrated too much on abortion and euthanasia.” He also attracted criticism for his statement that he hoped the Catholic Church in Italy will be “able to listen without any taboo to the arguments in favor of married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, and homosexuality.”