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Photo: Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis/Corbis

Pope Francis said Wednesday that Catholic bishops should not let politics influence pastoral decisions in an apparent criticism of clergy members who want to prevent pro-choice politicians from receiving Communion, AP reports.

Why it matters: President Biden's support for abortion rights has divided Catholics in the U.S. over whether he and other pro-choice politicians should be denied Communion.

The big picture: On his way from the Vatican to Slovakia, Francis declined to give reporters a "yes" or "no" answer on Biden's case specifically, the AP reports. But he warned against politics entering the debate over receiving Communion.

  • “And what should pastors do? Be pastors, and not go condemning, condemning,” Francis said.
  • Francis added that he considers abortion to be equivalent to “homicide.”

What they're saying: “Whenever the church, in order to defend a principle, didn’t do it pastorally, it has taken political sides,” Francis said. “If a pastor leaves the pastorality of the church, he immediately becomes a politician.”

Flashback: In June, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops overwhelmingly voted, 168-55, to draft a document that they hope will prevent Biden and other Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion rights from receiving Communion.

  • The Vatican has previously warned against denying politicians Communion if they support abortion rights.

Francis also said Wednesday he didn't understand why so many are hesitant to get the coronavirus vaccine since “humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines"

  • "As children [we were vaccinated] for measles, polio. All the children were vaccinated and no one said anything," he added.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 9, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Pope Francis bows out of climate summit

Pope Francis. Photo by Stefano Spaziani/Archivio Spaziani/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

Pope Francis is no longer planning to attend the critical United Nations climate summit that begins in three weeks in Glasgow, Scotland, the Vatican announced Friday.

Why it matters: Francis' attendance, given his global stature, could have helped provide momentum to what are expected to be difficult talks aimed at spurring more aggressive steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Oct 10, 2021 - Health

NIH chief implores fellow evangelical Christians to get vaccinated

National Health Institute Director Francis Collins holds a model of a coronavirus, as he testifies at a July 2020 Senate hearing in Washington, D.C. Photo: Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images

National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins said Saturday on CNN that it's "truly heartbreaking" to see fellow evangelical Christians hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID-19 due to disinformation.

Why it matters: "We see still more than 1,000 people [per day] losing their lives to this disease — almost all of those unvaccinated and, therefore, didn't have to happen," said Collins, who's due to retire at the end of 2021.

Trump, your 2024 GOP nominee

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Former President Trump is telling most anyone who'll listen he will run again in 2024 — and poll after poll shows the vast majority of Republicans would gladly cheer him on and vote for him. 

Why it matters: Trump is the heart, soul and undisputed leader of the Republican Party and will easily win the nomination if he wants it, the polls make unmistakably clear.