Pope Francis said that he will not judge people with homosexual orientations and that they should not be "marginalized," but reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s position that homosexual acts were sinful. His statement was viewed by many to be more inclusive than his predecessors.
“If a person is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge them?” Said the first Pope from Latin America when asked by Vatican journalists on whether there was a “gay lobby” in the Vatican.
He arrived back in Rome on Monday after a seven-day tour of Brazil for the Catholic World Youth Day held in Rio, where millions of pilgrims journeyed to greet the Pope and hear him speak. It was his first trip abroad as pontiff.
On his flight back, Pope Francis told journalists that gay clergyman should be forgiven and their sons forgotten.
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well,” he said, speaking in Italian. “It says they should not be marginalized because of this but that they must be integrated into society.”
However, he condemned what he described as lobbying by gay people.
“The problem is not having this orientation,” he said. “We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem.”
Rev. James Martin, a prominent Jesuit commentator, said Pope Francis' remarks constituted a giant step forward.
"Anyone who says nothing has changed in the church today is nuts," Martin said on his Twitter account. "From 'no gay priests' in 2005 to 'who am I to judge' is a sea change."
Conservative Catholics are said to be downplaying the new remarks.
"He addressed the issue [of gays in the church] in a more frank way, but this is not a departure" from Catholic teachings, said Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Catholic Assn, according to Los Angeles Times. The church, even in its less accepting times, has long maintained that gay people should not be discriminated against.
Meanwhile, the pontiff also commented on the role of women in the Church. “We cannot limit the role of women in the church to altar girls or the president of a charity, there must be more.
“But with regards to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and says no…That door is closed.”
Although Francis’ statement on women’s role drew backlash on social media on Monday, he pointed out, "Let us remember that Mary is more important than the bishop apostles, so women in the church are more important than bishops and priests."