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On the eve of hosting an international conference for priests and educators about outreach to gay Catholics, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron has backed away from controversial comments that suggested Catholics who support gay unions and marriage should refrain from receiving the sacrament of Communion. “Whenever it comes to Communion, the objective is never to steer a person away,” Vigneron said in an e-mail Friday to the Free Press, part of a larger statement that buoyed gay rights supporters. In an April 2013 Free Press article, Vigneron said Catholics who back same-sex marriage and receive Communion would “logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury.” But in his current statement, Vigneron recognized that faithful Catholics — dealing with gay relatives now legally free to marry in civil ceremonies and in other churches that perform same-sex marriages unlike the Catholic Church — are feeling torn. Vigneron’s softened language comes at a key time, just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state bans on gay marriage and just weeks before Pope Francis, who has displayed a more welcoming, inclusive attitude about gay Catholics, is to visit the U.S. in September. Francis’ outreach has sharply divided Catholic bishops worldwide, many of whom will gather at the Vatican in October to hash out statements about gay Catholics. “The church and her pastors are there to help harmonize these priorities — of being faithful to and open about the truth (of church teachings about sexuality), and of being loving and compassionate to fellow Catholics in their personal and family lives,” Vigneron wrote. “Given the variety of circumstances which go into a person’s particular situation, the best way forward for one person may not be best for another.” Catholics who support gay rights hailed Vigneron’s new statement as more tolerant, open-minded, and a retreat from his previous harsh comments.