Catholic parishioners are moved to extend a hand, not judgment

At his sister’s wedding reception, Taylor Leffler sat down for a friendly chat with friends of hers who are gay.

For Leffler, a 22-year-old Nebraska native studying for the priesthood, the conversation was spurred by a powerful reason: Pope Francis’ call for Catholics to reach out to others, rather than shun them or preach to them because you disagree with how they live their lives.

In a now famous interview this fall with a Jesuit magazine, Francis said the Roman Catholic Church is obsessed with subjects like homosexuality and abortion, and he urged the church and its members to be less judgmental and more compassionate.

Though his papacy is just seven months old, Francis has caused a sensation among Catholics, and some say his call for forgiveness and mercy is changing how they treat others and live their faith.

His comments also have drawn attention from politicians, a group whose decisions have a broad effect on people’s lives.

Previous popes have emphasized the importance of a merciful church. But Francis — while not backing away from church teachings — is expressing that message of mercy in such a conversational way that some Catholics believe he’s providing a how-to guide for compassion and acceptance in their daily lives.

Of course, not all Catholics were excited by the pope’s comments, especially those on abortion and homosexuality, which rankled some conservative members of the church.
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