Pope Francis marked the end of a lengthy bishops’ summit Sunday in his homily at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, announcing, “Today is a time of mercy!”

The pope’s declaration reflected the emphasis during the recent synod at the Vatican on reconsidering some of the Catholic Church’s hard-line policies on subjects like divorce and homosexuality, as The Associated Press reported:

Without changing church doctrine, the 275 synod “fathers” on Saturday approved a 94-point final document endorsing Francis’ call for a more merciful and less judgmental church. The most disputed section of the document concerned whether remarried Catholics can receive Communion.

The Guardian posted a report after the synod’s end with more details about the topics covered and conclusions reached:

The pope’s homily hinted at how he may move forward following proposals tabled by bishops at the synod on family issues, who on Saturday evening released a concluding document addressing issues such as gay and divorced Catholics.

Three weeks of intensive talks saw 270 bishops debate whether to reinforce church doctrine or revamp teachings to respond to modern-day family life, with their final document seen as a compromise between the two opposing views.

Catholics who divorce and are remarried outside the church are currently not allowed to receive communion, but bishops opened the door to change by stating that divorcees should be “more integrated into Christian communities.” The new approach foresees clergy approaching divorced couples on a case-by-case basis, suggesting more freedom will be given to priests at the local level.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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