Representatives of the world's Catholic bishops have narrowly backed a proposal to allow divorced Catholics who have remarried outside the church to be allowed receive Holy Communion, on a case by case basis.

At Pope Francis' request, 270 bishops, along with clerical and a small number of married advisers, have been discussing the family's role in the church for most of this month.

A smaller synod twelve months ago resulted in public disagreements particularly on a proposal to explicitly welcome gays' and lesbians' contribution to church life, which was defeated.

Last night's final document, which required the support of two-thirds of synodsmen, contains no new outreach on same-sex relationships, but opposes discrimination against partners.

The bishops endorsed a reformist proposal to allow internal church forums decide, on a case by case basis, whether divorced Catholics who have remarried outside the church should be allowed to receive Holy Communion.

The document envisages a priest or bishop working with the Catholic concerned to decide jointly, privately and on a case-by-case basis if he or she can have their automatic exclusion from receiving the Eucharist lifted.

However, one part of the hotly-contested proposal received just one vote more than the required two-thirds support. 

The three-week long Synod on the Family will be closed today by Pope Francis. 

‘We are Church Ireland’ - a group that is in favour of renewal of the Catholic Church - said it was disappointed with the final report by Catholic bishops meeting in Rome on the issue of the family in contemporary society.

In a statement it said: "The report's 94 paragraphs indicate that the majority of the voting bishops do not favour change either in the teaching or discipline of the Church especially in relation to gay and lesbian people and communion for the divorced and remarried.

"The position of the role of women in significant roles in the Church did not appear in this final document."