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Group accuses Pope Francis of spreading heresy

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Pope Francis kisses a baby as he arrives to celebrate his Weekly General Audience in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, Vatican on September 20, 2017. Pope Francis at his weekly General Audience on Wednesday expressed his closeness to the people of Mexico after the country was hit Tuesday by a powerful earthquake.(Photo by Giuseppe Ciccia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Pope Francis is being formally accused of spreading heresy by a group of more than 60 Roman Catholic theologians, priests and academics, according to a FOX News report.

The pontiff raised the ire of the group after opening the door to allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion with his 2016 document “The Joy of Love.”

In a 25-page letter delivered to Francis last month and reported by The Associated Press, the 62 signers issued a “filial correction” to the pope — a measure that reportedly hasn’t been employed since the 14th century.

The letter accused Francis of propagating seven heretical positions concerning marriage, moral life and the sacraments with his 2016 document “The Joy of Love” and subsequent “acts, words and omissions.”

This is the second time Francis has been openly questioned by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Last year, four tradition-minded cardinals wrote him last year, asking him to clarify a series of questions they had about his 2016 text.

The Pope has yet to respond to either initiative. A Vatican spokesman did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Saturday.

No one who signed the recent letter is a cardinal, and the highest-ranking churchman listed belongs to an organization with no legal standing in the Catholic Church — Bishop Bernard Fellay, leader of the breakaway Society of St. Pius X.

Several other signers are well-known admirers of the old Latin Mass, which Fellay and his followers celebrate.

But organizers said the initiative was nevertheless significant and a sign of the concern among a certain contingent of academics and pastors over Francis’ positions, which they said posed a danger to the faithful.

“There is a role for theologians and philosophers to explain to people the church’s teaching, to correct misunderstandings,” said Joseph Shaw, a spokesman for the initiative, signatory of the correction and senior research fellow in moral philosophy at Oxford University.

When it was released in April 2016, “The Joy of Love” immediately sparked controversy. Church teaching holds that unless divorced and civilly remarried Catholics obtain an annulment — a church decree that their first marriage was invalid — they cannot receive the sacraments, since they are seen as committing adultery.

“The Joy of Love” didn’t create a church-wide pass for these Catholics, but suggested — in vague terms and strategically placed footnotes — that bishops and priests could do so on a case-by-case basis after accompanying them on a spiritual journey of discernment.

Subsequent comments and writings have made clear he intended such wiggle room, part of his belief that God’s mercy extends in particular to sinners and that the Eucharist isn’t a prize for the perfect but nourishment for the weak.

Shaw said none of the four cardinals involved in the initial letter, nor any other cardinal, was involved in the “filial correction.”

Organizers said the last time such a correction was issued was to Pope John XXII in 1333 for errors which he later recanted.