The pope didn't say he accepted abortion or homosexuality, noted Martha Fabiola Rojas Lerma, 76, of Mexico City. Rather, he said he wasn't going to stress those issues.
"It was very correctly well-spoken," she said. "There's a lot of injustice. Instead, we should work so that everyone has the basics, shelter, food, clothing."
In Philadelphia, churchgoer Irene Fedin said priests "should be more focused on helping the person gain a spiritual connection to God instead of just condemning people because of certain actions that they believe are wrong."
Outside a church in Coral Gables, Fla., Frank Recio said he was grateful that the pope is trying to shift the church's tone.
"I'm a devout Catholic, always have been. I think the Catholic Church had gotten out of touch with the way the world was evolving," said Recio, 69, who's retired from a career in the technology industry.
Recio said he would support changes like allowing priests to marry. "It's a natural state in life, for men and women to have a partner," said Recio.
In Boston, Evelyn Martinez, 26, said she agrees with Francis that compassion should be one of the church's main priorities.
"I don't believe that someone's sexuality should keep them away from any religion," said Martinez, a graduate student at Emerson College who attended Mass on Saturday night.
Jose Baltazar, a 74-year-old vice president of an insurance company and longtime church volunteer in Manila, in the Philippines, said the pope has set his priorities mindful of stark realities.
"We have to give priority in working to bring those who have gone astray back to the fold," Baltazar said. "We pray for them. Why did they go astray? What's our shortcoming? What's the shortcoming of the Catholic Church?"
Associated Press writers Rodrique Ngowi in Boston; Anne-Marie Garcia in Havana, Cuba; Jeannie Nuss in Little Rock, Ark.; Marco Sibaja in Brasilia, Brazil; Katherine Corcoran in Mexico City; and Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.