In the face of resistance from conservative factions within the Catholic Church to certain Vatican policies, Pope Francis, during the Epiphany Day Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, cautioned believers against splintering into groups driven by individual ideologies.
Emphasizing the need to abandon "ecclesiastical ideologies," the Pope urged the faithful to refrain from forming factions based on personal ideas.
Addressing the congregation, Pope Francis also warned against indulging in "elegant religious theory" at the expense of recognizing God in the faces of the less fortunate.
Without directly referencing the recent controversy surrounding his permission for priests to bless couples outside of marriage, including same-sex relationships, the Pope stressed the importance of not reducing faith to mere religious devotions or outward appearances.
While some bishops labeled Francis as a progressive figure and rejected the idea of blessing same-sex relationships, the Vatican clarified that such blessings were not heretical and had no doctrinal grounds for rejection.
Francis also warned against “basking in some elegant religious theory” instead of finding God in the faces of the poor.
Despite being 87 years old and having faced health challenges in the past year, Pope Francis maintained his vigor during the 90-minute Epiphany ceremony, which included the singing of Christmas hymns. At the conclusion of the service, an aide wheeled the Pope down the basilica's center aisle, acknowledging his chronic knee problem and his use of a wheelchair for longer distances.
Throughout a deacde-long papacy, Pope Francis has consistently advocated for attention to marginalized communities, including efforts to make LGBTQ Catholics feel more embraced within the Church, even as the Church maintains its stance on the sinfulness of homosexual activity.