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Pope Francis’s dramatically different message

Globe Magazine readers also weigh in on perfect neighbors.

THE NEW POPE

After the unspeakable shame and embarrassment spawned by the hubris and corruption of the Catholic hierarchy, it’s wonderful to read about the kind of church I had good reason to love and respect (“The Promise of Francis,” February 23). Thanks to Neil Swidey for writing such a remarkable piece and for including his personal story.

Pat McSweeney / Taunton

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Swidey’s wonderful article does a great job of capturing the moods of the Catholic faithful over the past many decades. Sister Nancy Braceland and others like her have been the real church in bad times and in good. It was nice to see a mention of the volunteers interviewed at Casserly House who are there through Jesuit-sponsored programs. Jim McCarthy is an Ignatian volunteer. Meg Klein is a Jesuit volunteer. Both programs commit to a year of spirituality and service to nonprofits working with the poor and marginalized.

David Hinchen / New England Regional Director, Ignatian Volunteer Corps

I stopped contributing to the general funds when Cardinal Law was in power. I saw him at a fund-raiser many years ago and was repulsed by his entourage. I support my local parish as much as possible. I have cringed during the past years admitting to friends and family that I still attended Mass, served as a lector, and even taught some CCD classes. I am cautiously optimistic that Pope Francis can lead the church to a place that cares for the poor, respects others, and preaches and acts the power of love.

A. Herlihy Jaroncyk

Newburyport

Francis should also have the opportunity to be heard on the greater issue of all forms of violence. After all, he chose the name of Francis of Assisi, the one to remind us of Gospel peace. By challenging us to return to the message of nonviolence, love of enemy and all of God’s creation, he has opened the door again to world peace. Every pope since WWII has spoken against war; John Paul II called it a defeat for humanity perpetrating crimes against humanity. But Sean O’Malley apparently cannot hear this message yet. Like most churches and religious institutions in this nation, the Boston Archdiocese is entrenched in the culture of war. Our children deserve to hear the message of peace.

Alice Kast / Boston

The premise of Swidey’s article — that a culturally more accommodating church will bring disaffected Catholics back to the pews — is, by no means, assuredly accurate. The experience of mainline Protestant churches that conformed to the culture was disastrous. There are now more Muslims in America than there are Episcopalians. Progressive Catholics are often imprecise about exactly what kind of church they want. One might reasonably make conclusions, however, about what kind of church they do not want: They do not want a church that teaches faith and morals with clarity and authority. And they do not want a church that hinders or embarrasses them in secular society by raising troublesome issues about the sanctity of human life or the impermissibility of contraception.

C. J. Doyle / Executive Director, Catholic Action League of Massachusetts

FEELING NEIGHBORLY

“The Perfect Neighbor” by Sharon Tully struck a chord with me, and I’m sure many other stay-at-home mothers and fathers (Connections, February 23). When we moved our family to Vermont, I became good friends with Bill, my next-door neighbor. Bill was a “true Vermonter,” a fifth-generation guy who grew up on a farm with 10 siblings. In Bill’s quiet way, he just knew everyone and everything. Never a bad word came from him — just the long silence of disapproval. The day that he had his huge yard sale was the day that I learned he was moving away to a town up north. Sigh. We still see each other, but it’s not the same. It’s hard to categorize how much the loss of a neighbor affects us, especially a neighbor who was reassuring and who let us know that this, too, will pass, and to cherish the moments of life we grumble about.

Susan Gyorky / Fairlee, Vermont

Our perfect neighbors relocated to Florida, and the love and wisdom given to us over the years we shared was priceless. Charlotte, a widow now, has sent a valentine card that is still on display.

Mary Coles / Raynham

Thank you for reminding me of my own neighborhood treasures. I’m sure Tully’s neighbor Anne Marie continues to inspire women like her in her new neighborhood.

Diane Walsh / Littleton

COMMENTS? Write to magazine@globe.com or The Boston Globe Magazine/Comments, PO Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819. Letters are subject to editing.

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