VATICAN CITY -- In another surprising statement from the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said the church can't "interfere spiritually" in the lives of gays and lesbians.
In a lengthy interview released Thursday in Jesuit journals in 16 countries, the pope warned that the Catholic Church's moral foundation might "fall like a house of cards" if it doesn't balance its divisive rules about the LGBT community, abortion and contraception with the greater need to make the church a merciful and more welcoming place.
The pope's statements in Thursday's interview follow his July comment about gay people, when he told reporters, "Who am I to judge?"
"The people of God want pastors," the pope said in the interview, "not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials."
He also said the "door is closed" on women's ordination but that women must play a key role in church decisions.
"Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed," the pope said. "The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role."
In the 12,000-word article, Pope Francis also opened up about his own life six months into the papacy, saying that he prays at the dentist's office and that he felt trapped in the Vatican's traditional papal apartments.
(CNN and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)