Pope Francis waves prior to celebrating a Chrism Mass inside St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on March 29, 2018. During the Mass the pontiff blesses a token amount of oil that will be used to administer the sacraments for the year. (Vatican Media via AP)

Pope on Holy Thursday urges priests to be close to sinners

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis 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 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 adulterer when he found her.

Francis said priests can tell adulterers not to sin again, but using a nonlegalistic tone that allows the sinner "to look forward and not backward."

"The correct tone is that of the confessor who is prepared to repeat it 70 times seven," he said.

Holy Thursday marks the start of an intense four days of activity leading up to Easter Sunday, including the Thursday afternoon ritual washing of the feet of 12 people, which Francis will perform at Rome's central Regina Coeli prison.

The 12 inmates include Catholics, Muslims, an Orthodox Christian and a Buddhist, the Vatican said. They hail from Italy, the Philippines, Morocco, Moldova, Colombia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

On Friday, Francis presides over the Way of the Cross procession at Rome's Colosseum re-enacting Christ's crucifixion. Saturday night, the pope celebrates the solemn Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Basilica, followed by the joyful Easter Sunday Mass marking Christ's resurrection.


  1. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 English Standard Version (ESV)
    16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

    1 Timothy1 :8Now we know that the Law is good, if one uses it legitimately. 9We realize that law is not enacted for the righteous, but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for killers of father or mother, for murderers, 10for the sexually immoral, for homosexuals, for slave traders and liars and perjurers, and for anyone else who is averse to sound teaching 11that agrees with the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

    2 Timothy 4 – English Standard Version 1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

  2. ” Even when people commit adultery, he said, priests should not condemn with legalisms. ”
    Spanky’s view also….

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