Pope Francis weighed in on Wednesday on a debate roiling the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, where bishops are considering denying Communion to politicians, like President Biden, who support abortion rights.
“I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone,” Francis said, adding that bishops should be pastors, not politicians.
In his usual fashion, the pope did not give a simple, direct answer. But he left little doubt about his view, invoking a phrase he has used before: “Communion is not a prize for the perfect.” The Vatican in June warned conservative bishops in the country against refusing Communion to Mr. Biden, who is only the second Roman Catholic to be U.S. president.
“If we look at the history of the church, we will see that every time the bishops have not managed a problem as pastors, they have taken sides on a political front,” Francis told reporters on his plane as he returned from a four-day trip to Slovakia and Hungary. He cited a history of atrocities committed in the name of the faith.
“What must the pastor do?” he asked. “Be a pastor, don’t go condemning. Be a pastor, because he is a pastor also for the excommunicated.”
The pope emphatically restated the Catholic position that abortion is homicide.
“It’s more than a problem — it’s murder,” he said, speaking in Italian. “Whoever has an abortion kills, no half words.”
“It is a human life,” he added. “This human life must be respected — this principle is so clear.”
Francis was not asked about, and did not address, last week’s ruling by Mexico’s Supreme Court that decriminalized abortion in the country.