Pope Francis has urged the Church to show more understanding of modern realities as he published new guidelines on family life.
The document, based on two Synods on the issue, was eagerly awaited by the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics.
Entitled “The Joy of Love”, it does not change Catholic doctrine.
The document opens the way for bishops in each country to interpret doctrine to suit their own culture.
Pope Francis urges priests to exercise careful discernment over “wounded families” and be merciful, rather than judgemental.
While saying yes to s** education, he argues it must be within a framework of education about love.
The emphasis throughout is on better pastoral care: better preparation for couples on what marriage involves, and more understanding from parish priests and others for human frailty.
The document is the culmination of three years’ work by Pope Francis, who sent a questionnaire to families across the world asking them about their hopes and their fears.
Pope Francis then brought bishops and cardinals together for two Synods in Rome, at which he encouraged them to debate and even to disagree over issues that divide the Church in many countries.
Among the most divisive issues are offering communion to the divorced and remarried, contraception and the treatment of gay Catholics.
Liberals had hoped he would tell the Church to show a more merciful attitude to those whose families do not conform to the current Catholic ideal.
Conservatives had maintained it would devalue the principle established by Jesus of marriage being indissoluble.
At the conclusion of the 2015 Synod, Pope Francis castigated Church leaders who, he said, buried their heads in the sand over the issue. He argued that their adherence to rigid doctrine was over-riding their concern for the suffering of families.
The document, formally known as a papal exhortation, has been trending worldwide on Twitter under its Latin name, #AmorisLaetitia.
In another development, US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders announced he would attend a conference at the Vatican on April 15. It was not immediately clear if he would meet Pope Francis himself.