More than 150 Catholics – bishops, priests and academics – have launched a statement in support of Pope Francis.

The Pro Pope Francis open letter, available in English and German, follows the “filial correction” of Pope Francis, which claimed that the Pope had helped to spread heresies.

The signatories, including eight bishops, address the Pope, saying: “Your pastoral initiat­ives and their theological justification are currently under vehement attacks by a group in the church. With this open letter, we want to express our gratitude for your courageous and theologically sound papal leadership.”

They congratulate the Pope on “reshaping the pastoral culture of the Roman Catholic Church”, adding: “We share your dream.”

Prominent signatories include the German politician Wolfgang Thierse, once Bundestag president, and László Sólyom, the former president of Hungary.

One signatory, Martha Heizer, was excommunicated by Pope Francis in 2014 for co-hosting private “Masses” in her home at which no priests were present.

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