PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, known for his activism against legalizing same-sex marriage and taking on politicians who support abortion rights, struck a conciliatory tone Friday, a week after he was quoted as saying he was “a little bit disappointed” Pope Francis hadn’t addressed abortion since being elected six months ago.
In interviews published Thursday in Jesuit journals in 16 countries, Francis said pastors should emphasize compassion over condemnation when discussing divisive issues of abortion, gays and contraception and said “it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
In a statement issued Friday, Tobin said he welcomed Pope Francis’ “balanced and inclusive approach” and admires and appreciates his “dynamic leadership.”
“Being a Catholic does not mean having to choose between doctrine and charity, between truth and love. It includes both. We are grateful to Pope Francis for reminding us of that vision,” Tobin wrote.
Tobin said he had also addressed issues such as immigration reform, gun control and gambling, and that the diocese has programs to support the poor, homeless and hungry.
But he also said he would continue to speak out about abortion and gay marriage.
“It is a demand of the Gospel,” he said.
On Friday, Pope Francis appeared to offer an olive branch to conservatives such as Tobin, denouncing abortions during an audience with Catholic gynecologists.
Tobin is known for taking strong stands on divisive social issues. He was a leading voice against the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage this year, and he recently switched his political party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, saying he could not be associated with the Democratic Party’s views on abortion and same-sex marriage.
In 2010, he withdrew two hospitals sponsored by the diocese from membership in a Catholic hospital group that supported health care reform because of fears it would allow for public funding of abortion. In 2009, he got into a protracted public argument with then-Rep. Patrick Kennedy over Kennedy’s support for abortion rights, culminating in the revelation that Tobin had asked Kennedy not to take Holy Communion because of his views.
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