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Pope Francis greets the faithful prior to his first 'Urbi et Orbi' blessing from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica during Easter Mass on March 31, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.
In a lengthy interview with American Magazine published Thursday, Pope Francis urged the Catholic church to focus less on condemning homosexuality, contraception, and abortion.
The pope, who has regularly stirred headlines since his anointment in March, said the church has been inordinately "obsessed" with "small-minded rules." He urged clergy to think of the church as a "field hospital" with "the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful."
In perhaps his most quoted line, Francis tackled homosexuality.
"A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality," Francis told American Magazine. "I replied with another question: 'Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person."
The pope did, however, say he considers homosexuality and abortion sinful.
In Los Angeles, home of the nation's largest Catholic archdiocese, the reaction was largely positive, and sometimes exuberant.
"In the past, people have focused a lot on folks leaving the church," said Father Jerry Cobb, rector of the Jesuit community at Loyola Marymount University. "I think this is a new moment in which Pope Francis seems to be wanting to welcome as many people as he can and throw the arms of the church open as well as the doors and the windows."
Whether there will be substantive changes to church policies on things like the use of contraceptives, Cobb said, is still unclear.
John Andrews is the communications director for the Diocese of San Bernardino. It has 1.6 million members, and is the fifth largest in the country.
"Everyone wants to know is this changing church teaching, the dogma of the church," Andrews said. "The answer is no, but it is a different tone and we take our cues from the Holy Father."
Andrews said the feedback from congregants on Pope Francis has been very supportive, though he imagines some will not agree with the pope's most recent statements.
"This helps to remind us that first and foremost we're to accept each other as children of God," Andrews said. "I don't think Pope Francis would be emphasizing that so much if he didn't feel like that was something that needed to come more to the fore in the way we practice our faith."
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles declined to comment and the Diocese of Orange did not respond to requests for comment.
Parishoners were less shy.
At the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angeles in Downtown Los Angeles, Bill LeScout, of Culver City, hurried to make noon mass.
"I like it," LeScout said of Francis' message of openness. "That's what Christianity is about."