In a wide-ranging interview published in the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica Thursday and translated simultaneously into several different languages, the pope said the Roman Catholic Church should be a "home for all" and not a "small chapel" focused on doctrine and orthodoxy.
He said the church has the right to express its views but not to "interfere spiritually" with the lives of gays and lesbians, and added the church has grown "obsessed" with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception.
"The church has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials," he said.
The pope's comments did not break with Catholic doctrine or policy but instead showed a shift in approach, moving from censure to engagement, CNN noted.
The pope's words are likely to have repercussions in the United States, where the church hierarchy often make combating abortion, gay marriage and contraception high priorities, The New York Times said.