While the interview continues for several pages, it seems that many members of the media and activism groups stopped reading after the quote. The night of the article's release, reports sprouted up online that the new pope is liberal and the Catholic Church is making major changes.
According to Father Bryan Lowe of Sacred Heart Church in Anniston, that's not necessarily the case.
"Actions that we consider sinful are still sinful, but that doesn't make you a bad person," said Lowe. "It doesn't make you so God doesn't love you, or make you unwelcome."
Lowe sees the Pope's words as clarification of the Catholic Church’s role in the world. An obsession with preaching consequences instead of positive actions has turned some away from the church.
"It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars," Francis said in the interview. "You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else."
According to Lowe, the majority of Francis’ statements are rooted in healing wounds created by doctrinal arguments against issues like abortion and gay marriage. According to Lowe, "Love the sinner, hate the sin" is the core philosophy espoused by the Pope.
"You can't make the church a little chapel that only invites a few, select people," Lowe said, adding that the pope's comments do not mark a change in the church’s position on homosexuality, contraception or abortion.
NARAL, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, went so far as to send an online thank-you note to Pope Francis "on behalf of pro-choice women everywhere.”
One day later, the pope decried abortion in a speech to Catholic gynecologists in the Vatican saying, "Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord.”
"I don't see him as a pope who is going to make radical changes," said Lowe.
Still, while the pope's attitude may not mark the change that some want to see in the Catholic Church, it is a step away from conflict and toward mercy, forgiveness and tolerance.
As an example, said Lowe, a woman who has had an abortion and feels she cannot be forgiven may decide never to return to the church — she’s the type of person Pope Francis is trying to reach.
"You're not excluded because of what you've done," said Lowe. "That's what I think he's saying, that we need to remember that we're all about bringing God's love and mercy into the world."
Benjamin Nunnally is a freelance writer in Jacksonville. Contact him at email@example.com.