EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

July 31, 2013

Pope Francis proves popular with N.H. Catholics

Pope Francis is pleasing New Hampshire Catholics in style and substance.

Four months on the job, the pope’s words and actions are shaking up the church and that’s just fine with worshippers in the Granite State.

“I think he’s doing fantastically,” said Leo Hart, a parishioner at St. Matthew’s Parish in Windham. “He’s showing a great connection to the poor and downtrodden.”

Francis has rejected the official papal apartment at the Vatican for a simpler guest house, visited slums in Brazil and wandered away from his security guards to mix with the people.

He has asked clergy to get out of the rectories and into their parishes to do good.

This week, he is talking up a bigger role for women in the church, although ruling out female priests, and saying he will not judge gay priests.

“I didn’t think he would be as forthcoming quite so soon,” said Judi Ryan, a member of Saints Mary and Joseph Parish in Salem. “I’m surprised and delighted. He’s starting to make some waves and I applaud him.”

Ken Dunne of St. Patrick’s Parish in Pelham said the pope is doing a great job and he likes him very much.

“It’s like he’s taken a vow of humility,” Dunne said.

Southern New Hampshire Catholics believe the papal conclave made the right choice.

“Everybody I’ve been in contact with is excited about his message,” said Bob Guyre of St. Matthew’s Parish in Windham. “He’s the right guy.”

Practicing Catholics don’t see the pope’s stance on gay priests as being inconsistent with church teachings.

Traditional church values do respect gay people, Hart said.

“The old church adage, ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner,’ is being played out by him,” Hart said.

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