A pastor who is facing criticism for saying black America is losing "its soul" during a eulogy for Aretha Franklin is defending his comments, adding, however, that he understands the pushback. 

Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. said in an interview published Tuesday that he regrets how the family and guests at Franklin's funeral reacted to his sermon but says he does not regret the message he shared.


“I understand it,” he told The Associated Press. “I regret it. But I’m sorry they feel that way.”

Vaughn Franklin, nephew of Aretha Franklin, told the AP in a statement that Williams was selected by the family due to his friendship with Williams's aunt, who was memorialized in an all-day funeral service on Friday in Detroit.

But Williams, Franklin said, did not eulogize the "Queen of Soul," and instead used the opportunity to express his own political views. During the sermon, Williams told guests that "black lives do not matter” in an attempt to shed light on violence in majority-black communities.

“He spoke for 50 minutes and at no time did he properly eulogize her,” said Franklin.

It “caught the entire family off guard,” Franklin added, calling the message "distasteful."

Franklin's funeral, which came a day before the state funeral of Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote GOP, White House start playing midterm blame game Arizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ MORE (R-Ariz.) in Washington, D.C., was rife with political messages, including some aimed at President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE.

"What needs to happen today not only in this nation, but throughout the world, is that we need to make love great again," said singer Stevie Wonder, riffing off Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again."

"Because black lives do matter, because all lives do matter, and if we love God then we know truly it is our love that will make things better," Wonder continued in his remarks. 

--Updated at 11:35 a.m.