WHAT Pope Francis had said wasn’t a shocker at all.

The leader of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide said to an Italian Jesuit journal that the Church has “sometimes locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules,” adding that the clergy should not be too much obsessed with topics like abortion, contraception and homosexuality.

The 12,000-word interview created a big buzz, with some of the media twisting the details and making it look that the first Jesuit pope was making a big shift for the Church, saying that it was seemingly in contradiction to the “traditional teachings” of his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and two millenia of Roman Catholic teaching.

What the media and everyone have been missing out—as in all of what Pope Francis has said since he occupied the top position in the Holy See—is that the Vatican is not changing sides, but only clarifying the real mission of the Church: to be a Church of love and mercy.

While he said that the Church remains clear and firm in its different stands on various moral and social issues, Francis reminded the priests that they don’t have to talk about these issues all the time but rather perform their true duty which is to lead their flock to God.

“[Priests] must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind,” he said.

The Argentine pope added that it is the priest who should understand the situation of his people instead of condemning and turning them away.

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“In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy,” Francis said.

We are all sinners. That is a fact. That is why the Pope is pointing out what has already been stated in the Scriptures.

During the time of Jesus Christ, lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, and many other kinds of “outcasts” were condemned by the society, even by the Pharisees.

But Jesus sat and ate with the outcasts, reminding the Jewish priests of their responsibility to their people, telling the Pharisees, for instance, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice, for I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus in the Bible is always be merciful and loving to the sinners asking for repentance. He even died in the cross for all of us to redeem us from our sins (yes, we are all redeemed, even atheists and secularists, just as the Pope said months ago, a statement that was also misinterpreted).

In short, the interview that hit the headlines was nothing new, but a reaffirmation of Jesus Christ’s mission, the true mission of the Church. What the people have dubbed as a reformist pope is only doing what God has told him which is to preach the Gospel. What most don’t see is that the traditional Church is trying to proclaim the Word of God in the progressive times in what they call the “New Evangelization.”

But why do people not believe in the issues being opposed by the Church, the reason the centuries-old religion is being accused as being hoary with tradition? It is because the Church has not explained clearly the Gospel and the moral teachings emanating from them. The Church has to show the love of God, protecting her people from harm rather than restricting their freedom. The Church must also embody the mercy of Christ.

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“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 Pope said.

Pope Francis said the Church is like a hospital in a battlefield and its primary job is to “heal the wounds” of the seriously injured, not to add and rub salt in them.

But this call should not just be for the shepherds, but also for the flock. Christians should live as true followers of Christ, obeying His teachings and of the Church and continuing to love God and their neighbors despite differences in beliefs. After all, we have to remember that it is the number one commandment Jesus Christ has taught us—the number one rule we should all follow.

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