Look to your conscience on issues of marriage, love and sex, Pope tells faithful

Pope Francis says Catholics should look to their own consciences more than Vatican rules to negotiate the complexities of sex, marriage and family life. In a 260-page text issued on Friday, he said the church should shift its emphasis from doctrine to mercy in confronting some of the thorniest issues facing the world’s 1.2bn faithful. His “apostolic exhortation” suggested a more forgiving approach towards divorcees and those who live together outside marriage. But he dashed the hopes of reformers by offering no leeway on the church’s opposition to homosexuality and gay marriage.

In such cases, respect also can be shown for those signs of love which in some way reflect God’s own love.

Pope’s advice on civil marriage or living in sin

Many observers say Pope Francis’s legacy will be determined by the document which followed a two-year, worldwide consultation exercise. The exhortation, entitled Amoris Laetitia, was unveiled at the Vatican and sent to dioceses around the world. The document makes clear Francis wants nothing short of a revolution in the way priests deal with followers. He says the church must no longer sit in judgement and “throw stones” against those who fail to live up to the ideals of marriage and family life. Those who live together outside marriage “need to be welcomed and guided, patiently and discreetly”, he says.

They are not excommunicated and should not be treated as such

The Pope on divorcees