VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis is telling a contentious gathering of the world's bishops on family issues to put aside their personal prejudices and have the courage and humility to let themselves be guided by God.

Francis told 270 cardinals, bishops and priests Monday that the three-week synod isn't a parliament where negotiations, plea bargains or compromises take place. Rather, he said, it's a sacred, protected space where God shows the way for the good of the church.

The synod is debating how the church can better care for Catholic families at a time when marriage rates are falling, divorce is common and civil unions are on the rise.

Conservatives have been insisting on church doctrine about the indissolubilty of marriage while progressives are seeking a more merciful approach to family problems.

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