Pope on Biden communion debate: Bishops shouldn't 'go condemning'

Pope FrancisPope FrancisRetired pope says he hopes to soon join friends in 'the afterlife' Religion and the G-20: With faith, we can move mountains The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE on Wednesday said Catholic bishops must minister to politicians who back abortion rights without condemnation. 

The pope was asked about the debate over whether President BidenJoe BidenBiden: Democrats' spending plan is 'a bigger darn deal' than Obamacare Biden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Biden: Comment that DOJ should prosecute those who defy subpoenas 'not appropriate' MORE, who is Catholic, should be denied communion based on his stance on abortion. He said bishops should minister to those elected officials using “the style of God” and with “closeness, compassion and tenderness,” The Associated Press reported

“And what should pastors do? Be pastors, and not go condemning, condemning,” Francis said aboard the papal plane en route home from Slovakia.

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The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted in June to proceed with drafting a formal statement on the meaning of communion, which will include whether pro-abortion rights politicians, like the president, should be denied. 

The pope said on Wednesday he didn’t know the case in the U.S. well enough and that abortion is “homicide,” AP reported.

He said priests can deny communion to people who aren’t baptized, Jewish people or people who have fallen away from the Catholic church. Biden, just the second Catholic U.S. president in history, regularly attends mass and takes communion. 

The pope has previously cautioned U.S. bishops against denying communion to elected officials and warned that communion can’t be used as a political weapon.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a document in June clarifying that they will not create “a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians,” seeking to tamp down on escalating debate over Biden’s faith. 

The pope earlier this year met with Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenNuclear watchdog: US, Iran entering 'decisive' period on resuming talks Sullivan raised normalizing relations with Israel during meeting with Saudi crown prince: report Democrats call for State to lift ban on embassies discussing same-sex marriage MORE for 40 minutes to “express his affection for his attention to the people of the United States of America” when Blinken was in Italy for a meeting on the crisis in Syria.