Pope Francis’ approach reminds Catholic church leaders of Cardinal Bernardin

Pope Francis is raising the spirit of the late Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, say some local and national Catholic church leaders, who see parallels between the two as the 17th anniversary of Bernardin’s death approaches.

From Francis’ statements on poverty, church divisions, inclusiveness, relations with non-Catholics and the role of women, the leaders cite similarities with Bernardin, who was once named the most influential religious leader in America by U.S. News and World Report.

Francis has prioritized helping the poor and called for compassion over condemnation when discussing polarizing issues of abortion, homosexuality and contraception – issues with which he warned the church can’t become obsessed. He has called for new balance.