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Older Irish Catholics hope a new pope means a new direction for the church

The faithful say they hope that Pope Francis will bring change to a church suffering from scandal, despite the new pope's staunchly conservative views on social issues.
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A man sits inside St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. (Omar Shamout/GlobalPost)

DUBLIN — Newly elected Pope Francis may be staunchly conservative on many social issues, but the same can’t be said for some older, devout Catholics in Dublin.

Margaret Devlin, 62, celebrates Mass at her local church daily. She’s excited about a change in Vatican leadership, but disagrees with the new pope’s stance against gay marriage.

“If you’re gay, you’re gay,” Devlin said. “I think they have a right to be happy with a partner."

The former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was elected Bishop of Rome by the College of Cardinals last Wednesday, vocally opposed a same-sex marriage legalization bill that became Argentine law in 2010. In a letter to the monasteries of Buenos Aires, he called gay marriage “a destructive pretension against the plan of God."

The pontiff also holds status quo church views on abortion, contraception, female clergy and priest celibacy.

Dublin resident Thomas Carrick, 65, said he would like to see the Vatican reform its policies.

“I hope he gets the strength to reform the church, such as giving women the status of priesthood,” Carrick said as he left lunchtime mass at St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. “Some of their rules and laws date back to the middle ages.”

Devlin agreed, and said that Pope Francis should also rethink the church’s ban on priests’ getting married.

“I think they should be allowed to marry,” Devlin said. “They’d be a lot happier.”

Dubliners also said that Francis must heal the church after decades of sexual abuse controversy, which has prompted many Catholics — in Ireland and beyond — to leave the faith.

“Scandals have turned people off from religion,” said 60-year-old Greta Kelly, who described herself as a regular churchgoer. “The church has let down people, so [Pope Francis] has a hard job ahead of him.”

Devlin agreed. “It’s very hard to get young people to go into the church and they say, ‘I don’t know what he’s up to,’” he said.

Still, all three said Francis’ Argentine background could be an asset in efforts to reshape the Vatican hierarchy.

“I was pleased that he was from outside Europe,” Devlin said. “I think they’re all a clique.”

Gerry Treanor, 58, a civil servant also attending mass at St. Mary’s on Wednesday, agreed with Devlin, and acknowledged the South American pope’s humble beginnings.

“It’s probably a very good thing,” Treanor said, adding, “the word humility comes to mind” when describing Francis.

Thomas Knowles, a 90-year-old Irish Catholic, has lived through eight papal terms, and said that he believed Francis is “a different kind of pope.”

“This is the best news I’ve heard,” said Knowles. “It doesn’t make any difference to me where he’s from. He’s a man of prayer — a poor man who came up. He understands humanity, and that’s what we want in the world today.”

More from GlobalPost: Does Ireland hold the key to Catholic Church's future?

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/belief/ireland-catholics-church-pope-francis-new-direction