WASHINGTON — Pope Francis told U.S. bishops there is no place for “harsh and divisive” rhetoric in their ministry, indicating he wants to see a change in tone after years of culture wars.

The pope encouraged them to build relationships with anyone, no matter that person’s views on church teaching, and to do so with compassion.

He said in remarks to bishops Wednesday: “It’s not about preaching complicated doctrines, but joyfully proclaiming Christ who died and rose for our sake.”

Bishop Robert P. Deeley of the Diocese of Portland stands with other bishops at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Bishop Robert P. Deeley of the Diocese of Portland stands with other bishops at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Courtesy of Diocese of Portland

Bishop Robert P. Deeley of the Diocese of Portland was among those greeting the pontiff at midday prayers at St. Matthew’s Cathedral.

In recent years, the American bishops have dedicated increasing resources to opposing abortion, gay marriage and artificial contraception. As leaders of the nation’s largest denomination, they have become torchbearers for religious conservatives on these issues.

The bishops said they had to take up these fights because society and governments were increasingly accepting immoral policies.

But since the earliest months of his papacy, Francis has said the church had become too focused on divisive social issues and should instead focus on mercy.

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