Father Brendan Hoban of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland said his group is “absolutely exhilarated” with the pope’s words in his interview in 16 Jesuit magazine.

The pope said that going forward the church must adopt a more tolerant view towards gays, divorced Catholics and women who have had an abortion.

Hoban whose group has campaigned for a more liberal church told The Irish Times that his group was recently called to task by the Council of Priests in the Ferns diocese because they didn’t actively support bishops during the abortion debate in Ireland.

“The bishops over-egged their case,” in Ireland, Hoban said, and he feels Francis conveyed similar views in the interview.

In New York, Irish American Cardinal Timothy Dolan also welcomed Francis’ words.

“Our Holy Father confirms what has been apparent during these first six months of papacy: that he is a man who profoundly believes in the mercy of a loving God, and who wants to bring that message of mercy to the entire world, including those who feel that they have been wounded by the church,” Dolan said in a statement.

“It is becoming more evident every day that we are blessed with a Pope who is a good shepherd after the heart of Christ.”

A leader in the  Irish Catholic Church hierarchy has also applauded Pope Francis for his groundbreaking views on social issues which he expressed in the new interview this week.
Dublin  Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said Francis’ wide ranging-interview, published in Jesuit magazines in 16 countries, set “a pastoral tone for the whole church.”

Martin told The Irish Times that Francis “was going back to the old practice in the church, not in a legalistic or rigorist way, of accompanying the person within the situation in which they find themselves, where they can encounter the mercy of God.”

When asked if he agreed when Francis said that it is “not necessary to talk about [social] issues all the time,” Martin said that the “media too seems preoccupied with them.”

The Irish church leader said Francis has “the mentality of a good priest.”