Catholics praise pope’s statement
NEW YORK – Catholics attending Sunday services around the globe said they were heartened by Pope Francis’ recent remarks that the church has become too focused on “small-minded rules” on hot-button issues like homosexuality, abortion and contraceptives.
Worshippers applauded what they heard as a message of inclusion from the man who assumed the papacy just six months ago.
“I think he’s spot on,” said Shirley Holzknecht, 77, a retired school principal attending services in Little Rock, Ark. “As Catholic Christians, we do need to be more welcoming.”
Francis, in an interview published Thursday in 16 Jesuit journals worldwide, called the church’s focus on abortion, marriage and contraception narrow and said it was driving people away.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the pope’s words were welcome.
“He’s captured the world’s imagination,” Dolan said after Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. “Like Jesus, he’s always saying, ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner.’ ”
But Dolan said Francis’ change in tone didn’t signal a change in doctrine.
“He knows that his highest and most sacred responsibility is to pass on the timeless teaching of the church,” Dolan said. “What he’s saying is we’ve got to think of a bit more effective way to do it. Because if the church comes off as a scold, it’s counterproductive.”
In Brasilia, Brazil, the capital of the country with the largest Catholic population in the world, 22-year-old student Maria das Gracas Lemos said Francis was “bringing the church up to date.”
She said children of divorced parents used to be barred from some schools in Brazil. “All that has changed. In Brazil, people are no longer rejected because they are divorced,” Lemos said. “The church has to catch up with changes in society, even if it still doesn’t admit divorce.”
The pope didn’t say he accepted abortion or homosexuality, noted Martha Fabiola Rojas Lerma, 76, of Mexico City. Rather, he said he wasn’t going to stress those issues.
“It was very correctly well-spoken,” she said. “There’s a lot of injustice. Instead, we should work so that everyone has the basics: shelter, food, clothing.”
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