The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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September 20, 2013

Papal interview strikes chord with local religious

Priest, nuns welcome Francis's inclusive attitude, focus on poor

MANKATO — The Rev. John Kunz of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Mankato looks to his bishop to set the tone of his church, but he also looks to the pope.

He used to read the daily reflections of Pope Benedict, and now he does the same with Pope Francis.

“The pope and the church really do have a strong voice,” Kunz said. “It does affect us. It does affect me.”

During his first six months as pope, Francis has earned a reputation as being a “pope of the people,” committed to helping the poor and living simply, and expressing somewhat liberal viewpoints. A recent in-depth interview with Francis included more of those viewpoints and had many people this week talking about his blunt language.

The interview was with the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal endorsed by the Vatican. Francis said he believes the Roman Catholic Church has become “obsessed” with preaching about three issues: abortion, gay marriage and contraception. Francis had chosen not to speak on those issues but rather to focus on creating a welcoming “home for all” tone for the church.

That message has resonated with Kunz. He said Francis believes in focusing on the larger picture because some have become so issue-oriented “that they have kind of pushed people away from Jesus,” Kunz said.

“These are important values, but Jesus is really (what's most important),” Kunz said. “He's really trying to open the door. … He seems so inviting and inclusive.”

In the interview, Francis didn't offer opinions on abortion, gay marriage and contraception, but said it's not necessary to discuss the issues all the time.

However, when speaking with Catholic gynecologists in Vatican City Friday, he denounced abortions as a symptom of today's “throw-away culture” and encouraged the doctors to refuse to perform them, according to CBS News. That seemed to contradict some of the statements of the previous interview, in which he said:

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