Delight and concern as Catholics digest Pope Francis’s frank interview

September 22, 2013

(Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead a mass outside the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito )

There was delight, curiosity and concern at Roman Catholic churches this weekend as the impact of a remarkably frank interview Pope Francis gave to Jesuit journals began to sink in with the faithful around the world.

In the interview posted online on Thursday by 16 Jesuit journals, Francis, 76, said the Church must shake off an obsession with abortion, contraception and homosexuality and focus on healing those who felt “wounded” by the Church.

In many congregations, priests and parishioners welcomed the wide-ranging interview as a breath of fresh air from a man talking more like a gentle local pastor than the distant theologian or statesman pontiffs of recent decades.

Some were unsure, saying they still had to read the full text to see where Francis might take the 2,000-year-old Church, while conservative churchgoers in Africa, the faith’s fastest-growing region, were quick to condemn the new openness to homosexuals applauded in other parts of the world.

Many ordinary priests rejoiced that the new pope was not afraid to address the thorny moral issues they meet in their daily work and advise them to show love and mercy to sinners instead of condemning them.

“I was thrilled to read it,” said Fr Lee Smith, 78, a retired Brooklyn priest living in Jupiter, Florida. “How can you not want to go out and preach this right now?”

An enthusiastic middle-aged woman in Warsaw who declined to give her name called Francis’s message “the Gospel with the word ‘compassion’ tattooed on the forehead … This is a revolution, and the Church is implementing it.”

Although it made global headlines when published, many preachers mentioned the interview briefly or not at all in the weekend’s sermons, perhaps because it is so new or could herald fresh rifts and wrangling about what the world’s largest church should say and do.

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