Pope on Holy Thursday urges priests to be close to sinners

Pope Francis is urging priests to be spiritually close to their flocks and not insist 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 insist on 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 comes as Francis' opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics has badly divided the church.