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Pope reaches out to fallen Catholics on Epiphany, says he respects them and God is waiting

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    Pope Francis delivers his message as he celebrates a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, to mark Epiphany, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. The Epiphany day, is a joyous day for Catholics in which they recall the journey of the Three Kings, or Magi, to pay homage to Baby Jesus. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)The Associated Press

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    Pope Francis kisses the Holy Book as he celebrates a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, to mark Epiphany, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. The Epiphany day, is a joyous day for Catholics in which they recall the journey of the Three Kings, or Magi, to pay homage to Baby Jesus. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)The Associated Press

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    Pope Francis, left, celebrates a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, to mark Epiphany, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. The Epiphany day, is a joyous day for Catholics in which they recall the journey of the Three Kings, or Magi, to pay homage to Baby Jesus. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)The Associated Press

  • 07975b74daa02200480f6a706700e57a.jpg

    Pope Francis celebrates a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, to mark Epiphany, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. The Epiphany day, is a joyous day for Catholics in which they recall the journey of the Three Kings, or Magi, to pay homage to Baby Jesus. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)The Associated Press

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    Pope Francis holds the pastoral staff as he leaves after celebrating a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, to mark Epiphany, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. The Epiphany day, is a joyous day for Catholics in which they recall the journey of the Three Kings, or Magi, to pay homage to Baby Jesus. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)The Associated Press

Pope Francis has made another gesture to Catholics who have fallen away from their faith, saying he respects them but that God is waiting for them.

Francis made the comments Monday after he celebrated Epiphany, a major Catholic feast day that recalls the visit to the infant Jesus Christ by three kings.

The pontiff said: "I would like to tell all those who feel far from God and the church — and I say this respectfully to those who are afraid or indifferent: The Lord loves you and wants you to be part of his people and does so with great respect and love!"

Francis has made a priority of reaching out to atheists and Catholics marginalized by their church.