Pope Francis' Message Heralds Change of Tone on Gays, Abortion
Philip Pullella and Tom Heneghan - Reuters
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September 24, 2013

Pope Francis comments on how the church should be more welcoming and accepting of gay and lesbian community. (ChicagoTribune)

VATICAN CITY/PARIS - A landmark interview by Pope Francis will force conservative members of the Catholic Church to re-calibrate how they deal with gays, abortion and contraception but is not expected to be the precursor to seismic changes in doctrine, papal experts say.

Pope Francis sent a clear message to officials from the highest reaches of the hierarchy down to the most remote parish that they should not be obsessed with structures, rules and regulations and not put people in moral ghettos.

But Church sources and commentators believed Thursday's long interview, while radical in tone from a man whose humility and popular touch marks him out from his predecessor, did not herald rapid change in teachings on homosexual activity, contraception and abortion that have threatened to split the church.

In fact on Friday, Francis, with little fanfare, re-stated the Church's opposition to abortion in a speech to Catholic doctors, speaking of those "unjustly condemned to abortion".

But the interview with the Argentine pontiff, released six months into the first non-European papacy in 1,300 years, will force pastors who have stridently condemned homosexuality or women who have had abortions to change their tone.

The confessional, Francis warned them, is "not a torture chamber"; without mercy, he said, "even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards".

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