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FILE PHOTO - Pope Francis arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

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PARIS (Reuters) - Pope Francis saw a Jewish psychoanalyst once a week for six months during the 1970s and found the experience beneficial, the pontiff was quoted as saying in a new book.

"For six months, I went to her once a week to shed light on certain things," the Argentine pontiff said in a series of interviews with French sociologist Dominique Wolton, extracts from which were published by Le Figaro on Friday.

"She was very good, very professional ... but she always remained in her proper place," the 80-year-old said, adding he was aged 42 at the time. "She helped me a lot."

The excerpts released did not name the psychoanalyst or explain why the sessions had been originally set up. Francis said she had called him when she was on the verge of death, "not for sacraments, because she was Jewish, but for a spiritual dialogue".

Francis, who has campaigned for a more open and inclusive Catholic Church, criticised "rigid priests, who are afraid of communicating".

"It is a kind of fundamentalism. When I come across someone rigid, especially if they are young, I say to myself that they are sick. In reality, they are looking for security."

The book, "Pope Francis: Meetings with Dominique Wolton, Politics and Society" is due for publication by Les Editions de L'Observatoire on Sept. 6.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas, writing by Isla Binnie, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Reuters