Pope aims to assure conservatives marriage doctrine safe

Pope Francis Met with Gay Couple During His Time in US

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis sought Tuesday to assure conservatives that Catholic doctrine on marriage is safe, as a three-week meeting of bishops began hashing out how the church should welcome gays, divorcees and other Catholics in "irregular" unions.

Francis took the floor Tuesday morning after the meeting's first day was marked by a speech from the synod manager, Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, in which he closed the door on any movement on whether Catholics remarried outside the church could receive Communion.

SEE ALSO: Pope asserts marriage is forever at start of family meeting

Francis told the 270 cardinals and bishops that the issue wasn't the only one on the table and that church doctrine was never up for question. But he also seemed to discount Erdo's commentary by saying the only "official" documents heading into the debate were a final report issued from a big meeting of bishops last year, where the issue of Communion was left up in the air, and two of his speeches.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, echoed that by noting that the synod is debating a papally approved working text, where the question of Communion for civilly remarried Catholics is still open.

Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, who heads the synod's information commission, said the issue remains open as a pastoral question.

"There was the affirmation of the pope on what Catholic doctrine on matrimony is," Celli told reporters. "But I believe that if the work of the 'fathers' ended with yesterday morning's speech (by Erdo), what are we doing here?"

Church teaching holds that Catholics who divorce and remarry without a church annulment are committing adultury and therefore cannot receive the sacraments. Francis has called for a more merciful, inclusive approach in the church's pastoral care, but conservatives insist Catholic doctrine is clear.

Photos of Pope Francis' recent visit to New York City:

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Pope aims to assure conservatives marriage doctrine safe
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis travels through Central Park to meet and greet New Yorkers on September 25, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis travels through Central Park to meet and greet New Yorkers on September 25, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25: Crowds of people stand behind a police barricade as they await the arrival of Pope Francis in Central Park September 25, 2015 in New York City. The pope is in New York on a two-day visit carrying out a number of engagements, including a Papal motorcade through Central Park and celebrating Mass in Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Richard Drew-Pool/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Thousands of people watch Pope Francis ride in the popemobile through Central Park on September 25, 2015 in New York City. The pope is in New York on a two-day visit carrying out a number of engagements, including celebrating Mass in Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis waves as he drives through Central Park in a Papal motorcade on September 25, 2015 in New York City. Pope Francis is in New York on a two-day visit. He spoke at the United Nations General-Assembly earlier and will lead a Mass in Madison Square Garden tonight. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis waves as he rides through Central Park in a Papal motorcade on September 25, 2015 in New York City. The Pope is in New York on a two-day visit. He spoke at the United Nations General-Assembly earlier and will lead a Mass in Madison Square Garden tonight. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Thousands of people watch Pope Francis ride in the popemobile through Central Park on September 25, 2015 in New York City. The pope is in New York on a two-day visit carrying out a number of engagements, including celebrating Mass in Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: People wait in line to see Pope Francis ride through Central Park on September 25, 2015 in New York City. The pope is on a six-day visit to the U.S., with stops in Washington, New York City and Philadelphia. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: A man sells Vatican flags outside of Central Park before the arrival of Pope Francis on September 25, 2015 in New York City. The pope is on a six-day visit to the U.S., with stops in Washington, New York City and Philadelphia. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Thousands of people wait to go through security screening to enter Central Park where Pope Francis will ride in a motorcade on September 25, 2015 in New York City. The pope is in New York on a two-day visit carrying out a number of engagements, including a Papal motorcade through Central Park and celebrating Mass in Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Thousands of people wait to go through security screening to enter Central Park where Pope Francis will ride in a motorcade on September 25, 2015 in New York City. The pope is in New York on a two-day visit carrying out a number of engagements, including a Papal motorcade through Central Park and celebrating Mass in Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW YORK -- SEPTEMBER 25: People look on as Pope Francis passes through Central Park on September 25, 2015 in New York. The pope is on a six-day visit to the U.S., with stops in Washington, New York City and Philadelphia. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK -- SEPTEMBER 25: People wait for Pope Francis to pass through Central Park on September 25, 2015 in New York. The pope is on a six-day visit to the U.S., with stops in Washington, New York City and Philadelphia. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK -- SEPTEMBER 25: People wait for Pope Francis to pass through Central Park on September 25, 2015 in New York. The pope is on a six-day visit to the U.S., with stops in Washington, New York City and Philadelphia. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
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