Pope Francis has made another gesture to Catholics who have fallen away from their faith, saying he respects them but that God is waiting for them.

Francis made the comments Monday after he celebrated Epiphany, a major Catholic feast day that recalls the visit to the infant Jesus by the three kings.

The pontiff said, "I would like to tell all those who feel far from God and the church__and I say this respectfully to those who are afraid or indifferent: The Lord loves you and wants you to be part of his people and does so with great respect and love!"

Francis has made a priority of reaching out to atheists and Catholics marginalized by their church.

[Associated Press]

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