Pope Francis has urged Catholic bishops at an extraordinary synod on family issues to speak frankly and without fear.
The global gathering of some 200 bishops at the Vatican will discuss sensitive subjects like divorce and contraception.
Progressive and conservative church leaders have waged a sometimes bitter public battle on such topics.
And over the next two weeks, the pope is encouraging participants to allow each others views to be heard.
“Don’t tell anyone: ‘You can’t say that’,” he declared.
“You must talk about everything you know, in a spirit of freedom of speech. The presence of the pope is a guarantee for all and a safeguard of the faith.”
Debate on family issues has intensified after a worldwide survey showed that many Catholics ignored church teachings on birth control, sex before marriage and acceptance of homosexuality.