ROME — The Vatican’s secretary of state has called for greater dialogue within the Catholic Church after a small group of traditionalists accused Pope Francis of spreading heresy with his opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin said Thursday that those who don’t agree with the pope are free to express themselves, “but on these things one must reason and find ways to understand one another.”

Parolin’s comments marked the Vatican’s first response to the formal accusations made public last weekend.

The so-called “filial correction,” prepared by a few dozen traditionalist academics and clergy, accuses Francis of propagating seven heretical positions concerning marriage, moral life and the sacraments with his 2016 document Amoris Laetitia [“The Joy of Love”] and subsequent “acts, words and omissions.”

The organizers of the petition said the “correction” was delivered to Pope Francis on August 11, and the pontiff never responded.

Amoris Laetitia has been controversial since it was published, with debate surrounding whether or not the document allows persons who are divorced-and-remarried to receive communion without abstaining from sexual relations.

In September 2016, five months after Amoris Laetitia was published, four cardinals – Italian Carlo Caffarra, American Raymond Burke and Germans Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner – asked Francis for a clarification on the issue. When no response was given, the cardinals made their five questions (called dubia) public.

Burke has said that if the pope fails to clarify his position, a formal “fraternal correction” would be presented by the cardinals. (Two of them, Meisner and Caffarra, have since died.)

So far, this “fraternal correction” has failed to materialize, and the editors of Rorate Caeli, the traditionalist website which published the English text of the “filial correction,” stated the lay-led initiative is the first step in “an initiative of a theological nature that will likely lead, God willing, to an initiative of a canonical nature from those who have the mandate to act.”

At the time the “correction” was delivered to the pope, there were 40 signatories, although 22 more had added their name to the document before it was made public on Saturday.

A few notable names were included on the list, including Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the former president of the Institute for the Works of Religion, more popularly known as the “Vatican bank,” and Italian Monsignor Antonio Livi, former dean of the philosophy faculty at Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the canonically irregular traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X, also signed the document.

Since its publication on Saturday, a few dozen others have added their names to the “correction,” including a retired bishop in Texas.

Crux staff contributed to this report.