The Vatican's secretary of state has called for greater dialogue within the Roman Catholic Church after a small group of traditionalists accused Pope Francis of spreading heresy with his opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin said Thursday that those who don't agree with the pope are free to express themselves, "but on these things one must reason and find ways to understand one another."

Parolin's comments marked the Vatican's first response to the formal accusations made public last weekend.

The so-called "filial correction," prepared by a few dozen traditionalist academics and clergy, accuses Francis of propagating seven heretical positions concerning marriage, moral life and the sacraments with his 2016 document "The Joy of Love" and subsequent "acts, words and omissions."

Fewer than 150 people have signed.