BUFFALO - After the election of Pope Francis in March, Bishop Richard Malone made a prediction.
"I said fasten your seatbelt," Bishop Malone said. "It's going to be quite a trip."
Turns out, he was right. The Pope's interview with "La Civilta Cattolica," an Italian Jesuit magazine, has made waves across the globe. In that interview, he urged the church not to be "obsessed" with social issues like abortion, contraception, homosexuality and the redefinition of marriage, and he instead called for the church to become more inclusive and "find a new balance."
The Pope's comments do not mark a change in ideology, nor does it mean the church has altered its views on those salient social issues. His words, however, attempt to refocus the conversations about the religion away from the hot-button social discussions and more toward the guiding principles of Christianity.
"I think it's wonderful," Bishop Malone said. "There are some people who only see those provocative issues, and they look at everything through that, and I think the Pope is saying, 'that's a mistake'. Let's be strong in our commitment on all of those moral doctrines, but remember, we're committed to those things first and foremost because we belong to Christ."
Bishop Malone said Pope Francis seems to have reinvigorated some people who'd previously strayed away from the church. Mike Hayes, the Director of Campus Ministry at Canisius College, said the Pope has had a profound effect on the college students he works with.
"It seems like he really knows how to capture the essence... of not what he says, but how he says it," Hayes said. "And I think it really endears him to a lot of people. "
At the University of Buffalo, the same phenomenon has occurred. Christian Andzel, a member of the "Students for Life" group on campus, has seen more of his peers flock back to the church because of the Pope's perspective on the religion.
"It's a message of love, it's a message of outreach, it's a message of compassion. Something the church so badly needs," Andzel said.