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.”
In Havana, Cuba, Irene Delgado said the church needs to adapt to modern times.
“The world evolves, and I believe that the Catholic Church is seeing that it is being left behind, and that is not good,” said Delgado, 57. “So I think that they chose this Pope Francis because he is progressive, has to change things.”
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.”