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Pope on Holy Thursday urges priests to be close to sinners

Issued: 2018-03-29

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Thursday urged priests to be spiritually close to their flocks and not insist only on preaching laws when they sin.

Francis issued the guidance during Holy Thursday Mass, which is meant to show the unity of the Catholic Church during its most solemn, pre-Easter period.

In his homily, Francis warned priests to not be tempted to "idolize" church law and doctrine when preaching, since that can distance ordinary faithful from Jesus. Even when people commit adultery, he said, priests should not condemn with legalisms. Rather, he said, priests should help adulterers to look forward, even if they have to tell them not to sin over and over.

The admonition came as conservatives have complained that Francis is dividing the church with his opening to letting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion. Critics say Francis is disregarding church law about the indissolubility of marriage by effectively allowing adulterers access to the sacraments.

Francis appeared to be answering the criticism with his Holy Thursday Mass, choosing specifically to preach about how priests should accompany adulterers during a Mass meant to demonstrate the unity of priests with their bishops. He told priests in St. Peter's Basilica that Jesus wasn't disregarding the law when, in the Biblical story, he refused to condemn an adulturer when he found her.

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