An interview by Pope Francis has been heralded as a dramatic change in tone in the Vatican’s approach to divisive doctrines. He urged that the Catholic Church break its "obsession" with divorce, gays and abortion.
In an interview that has sent shockwaves through the Catholic Church, Pope Francis urged followers to focus on being merciful and welcoming rather than insisting only to focus on abortion, homosexuality and contraception.
Since his election in March, Pope Francis has proven himself a strong reformist, bringing a series of fresh perspectives to the Church's sometimes rigid approach.
On Friday, Italy's biggest newspaper, Corriere della Sera, called the pope's interview "revolutionary words," while the International Herald Tribune's front page headline read, "Bluntly, Pope Pushes Shift in Church."
An editorial by historian Lucetta Scaraffia in the Vatican daily Osservatore Romano read, "Francis distinguishes between the sin and the sinner. He says that homosexuals are not inferior or different to others, the choice of how to live one's homosexuality being one of the mysteries of man.”
In the 30-page interview published in Jesuit journals on Thursday, the pope urged "mercy" and understanding for those who often feel most discriminated against by the Catholic Church.
"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that," Francis said.
The pope said such issues need to be discussed in context.
"The dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church are not all equivalent. The Church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,” he said.
"We have to find a new balance. Otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel," the pontiff said.
More than anything, the pope said the Church needed to be able to "heal wounds."
The pontiff stressed that the Church's official position had not changed on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, but said that it should "always keep in mind the individual.”
Church sources and commentators believed the interview, while radical in tone even for Pope Francis, did not herald rapid change in teachings on homosexual activity, contraception and abortion that have threatened to split the church.
Francis is the first Jesuit pope and the first from South America and has become known for his humility and concern for the poor.
hc/jr (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)