Pope Francis has said that he never denied Communion to anyone after some bishops in the American Catholic Church issued calls to deny the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians, including President Joe Biden.
"I have never denied Communion to anyone," Pope Francis told Gerard O'Connell of America Magazine.
Speaking to journalists while flying from Slovakia to Rome, the Pope called on members of the Catholic Church to remain apolitical on the issue and to be "pastors, not politicians".
"Be a pastor. Don’t go condemning. Be a pastor because he is a pastor also for the excommunicated,"
He added that bishops should be "pastors with God’s style, which is closeness, compassion, and tenderness".
US Catholic bishops voted in June to draft a "teaching document" on the Eucharist and are set to discuss the draft document at their next meeting in November. The document is expected to include references to Church law barring certain people from receiving the Eucharist and some bishops hope that the document will exclude US President Joe Biden, who is pro-choice.
However, US bishops agree that it will still be up to individual bishops to decide whether they want to give communion to politicians in their diocese, with Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, indicating that he favors giving Communion to Biden.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Pope Francis said that Communion is "not a prize for the perfect" and urged US bishops not to go "beyond the pastoral dimension of the Church".
Pope Francis also addressed anti-vaccine sentiment in the Catholic Church and described getting vaccinated as "an act of love".
"Even in the College of Cardinals there are some anti-vaxxers, and one of them, poor man, was hospitalized with the virus," Pope Francis said in an apparent reference to American Cardinal Raymond Burke.