Pope Francis criticizes church's focus on gays, abortion - Fox 2 News Headlines

Pope Francis criticizes church's focus on gays, abortion, contraception

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The pope is not changing teachings, but he is changing the tone when it comes to controversial issues and the role of the Catholic Church -- and that's giving believers across the globe plenty to think about.

Pope Francis was elected six months ago, and many Catholics hoped he would usher in a new era of openness. Speaking frankly in a dramatic interview with the Italian Jesuit Journal, he seems to be doing just that.

In the interview, the pope talked about everything -- from his own mistakes to the church he sees in his dreams. Speaking candidly about that vision, Pope Francis signaled a new direction from that of his predecessor, Pope Benedict.

The pope stated bluntly that the church can't be obsessed with divisive issues like gay marriage, abortion and contraception. Instead, he urges Catholics to work harder to be welcoming to everyone.

"The church has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules," Pope Francis criticized.

Pope Francis also made it clear he believes failing to shift the focus could be devastating for the Roman Catholic Church.

"Otherwise, even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards," he said.

University of St. Thomas law professor Dr. Charles Reid blogs about religious issues for the Huffington Post, and he described the interview as a "blockbuster."

"I think this pope has declared the culture wars over, and the pope now clearly wants a church of love, of inclusiveness and moves away from drawing harsh boundary lines," Reid said.

According to Reid, Pope Francis appears to be open to greater roles for gays and women and wants the church to move away from taking political stands -- such as the local Archdiocese working to pass a ban on same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

While conservative believers may not like the pope's more liberal message, Catholics who spoke with FOX 9 News outside St. Olaf Church in downtown Minneapolis described his comments as a step in the right direction.

Pope Francis also seemed to offer an olive branch to lapsed Catholics, divorcees and others who left the church. Reid said he also believes the change in tone will go a long way toward appealing to young Catholics.

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