A Vatican document released on Monday asserts that homosexuals have "gifts and qualities to offer" and proposed the acceptance of gays within the Catholic church and an acknowledgement of the positive aspects of same-sex couples.
The New York Times reports that the document, drafted by an assembly of 200 bishops as part of a committee picked out by Pope Francis, says that the Roman Church should come to a "a fraternal space" for homosexuals without compromising Catholic doctrine on family and matrimony.
"Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home," said the document, known by its Latin name "relatio."
"Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?" it asked.
The bishops also asked the 1.2 billion-member Church to see the changing position on homosexuals as "an important educational challenge" for the global institution.
However, while the Church stated that gay marriages "cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman," it should recognize that there could be positive aspects to relationships in same-sex couples.
"Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners," the document said.
The document will be the basis for discussion for the final week of the Catholic synod, which was called by Pope Francis and focuses on the theme of the family.
Last year, Pope Francis said the Church must be more compassionate towards homosexuals, stating, "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge."
New York Times journalists Elisabetta Povoledo and Laurie Goodstein argue that although the bishop's report "does not change church doctrine or teaching," it is " the first signal that the institutional church may follow the direction Francis has set in the first 18 months of his papacy, away from condemnation of unconventional family situations and toward understanding, openness and mercy."
However, not all members of the Catholic Church welcome the Vatican's changing tone regarding homosexuality.
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, an American now serving in the Vatican, publicly denounced the proposal to the Italian daily newspaper Foglio.
"Worrying tendencies are emerging from the synod," he stated. "They are supporting the possibility of adopting a practice that deviates from the truth of the faith."