Pope's comments on direction of church draw attention - WSMV Channel 4

Pope's comments on direction of church draw attention

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

From the tradition, to its rules, you may think you know the Catholic Church. But the words of its leader Thursday might surprise you.

Less than a year into his papacy, Pope Francis has already made waves in the Catholic Church. Now, in an interview with a Jesuit magazine, Pope Francis spoke candidly about the church and its challenges.

His comments included a statement urging the church to balance its rules on abortion, homosexuality and contraception while working to be more patient, merciful and forgiving.

The pope did not change anything about Catholic doctrine, but he did change his tone about what really matters. And, in a rare moment of honesty, he even called himself a sinner.

"The candor is disarming people, and I think one of the reasons why is it's so genuine," said Father Bruce Morrill, who teaches at Vanderbilt University's divinity school.

For Morrill, the pope's words Thursday could be a game-changer.

"This is a man who's saying he wants a church that begins by meeting and listening to people," Morrill said. "We need to have a seamless garment of teaching, not just pull at certain threads or shove certain things."

The pope also addressed controversial issues like abortion and homosexuality, seemingly urging followers to see a bigger picture of the people who have often left the pews, saying in the article:

"Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: It is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person."

"He wants us to be a church, he says, that's a 'wide open home' rather than a narrow chapel," Morrill said. "And the perception, right away, is much more of a church that actually cares about people first, rather than worries first about its doctrinal positions."

It's still early in Francis' papacy, but a lot of people seem to think this message could set the tone for his legacy.

"Any effort that the church can make to reach out to people and to help them in terms of any kind of spiritual longing, you know, that they have is a good thing," said Bishop David Choby, with the Diocese of Nashville. "So, I think we need to reflect upon what Pope Francis is saying and see how we measure up."

Already, though, it seems to be sparking some opposition from more traditional Catholics.

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