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Bishops approve final document, call for more approval difficult family situations

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VATICAN CITY — Catholic bishops have called for a more welcoming church for cohabitating couples, gays and Catholics who have divorced and civilly remarried, endorsing Pope Francis’ call for a more merciful and less judgmental church.

Bishops from around the world adopted a final document Saturday at the end of a divisive, three-week synod on providing better care for Catholic families. It emphasizes the role of discernment–or guiding and counseling without judging–and individual conscience in dealing with difficult family situations — a method favored by more liberal bishops.

Conservatives had resisted giving any wiggle room in determining whether civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion. The citation of discernment and conscience can, however, open the door to case-by-case exceptions to church teaching.