Some East Tennessee Catholics, including the Diocese of Knoxville, are praising the pope's words in an interview released in Jesuit magazines worldwide Thursday.
In the 12,000 word interview, Pope Francis said the church's stance on abortion, homosexuality, and contraception is important in their teachings but the church has to find "a new balance" in its delivery or it will fall like "a house of cards."
At the University of Tennessee's university parish, John XXIII, Father Charlie Donahue keyed in on the pope's message during Thursday mass.
"Our pope articulates the timeless truth that we, every single human person, is good. Congenitally," Father Donahue said in his homily.
While Donahue agrees the church's doctrines should not change, he reiterated the pope's message that those teachings shouldn't be the only focus.
"What's important is the human person each time. This doesn't negate any of the truths we teach. This doesn't even give them a back seat," he said.
Catholic students said they are grateful to hear their pope preaching a progressive message.
"I think what he said was beautiful really," said Maemie Donnelly, a senior at UT and parishioner at John XXIII. "I think what he was trying to get across in his whole interview was that while these are important issues they are not the heart of the issue. The heart of the issue is the dignitiy of each human person."
"I agree with him entirely," said Quinn Cowan, a sophomore at UT and parishioner at John XXIII. "He's trying to deconstruct these catholic stereotypes that have assembled in modern times."
Father Donahue said since the pope was elected, he has appreciated what he's done for the church.
"I think what his whole pontificat has been about is understanding that the paradigms of the past are diffusing into kind of a human understanding of brother and sisterhood and without that link we may be doomed," he said.