The Vatican has clarified that Pope Francis was not endorsing gay marriage by sending a letter to a same-sex couple congratulating them on the baptism of their children.
In a statement to the Catholic News Agency, a Vatican source said that the letter, sent to Tony Reis, a gay rights activist, and his partner David Harrad was "a standard form letter" and in no way an endorsement of gay unions.
"(T)hat letter is the standard model of courtesy response that the Vatican sends to all the people who write to the Pope, and therefore was not a letter (that was) expressly thinking about them," the source told CNA.
In April, Reis and Harrad wrote on Facebook that they had sent a letter to the Pope, telling him about the baptism of their three adopted children at a church in Curitiba, Brazil. The couple said they'd received a congratulatory letter in return, signed by the Vatican Secretariat of State, Monsignor Paolo Borgi.
Several pro-LGBT news outlets quickly picked up the story, running headlines like "Pope Francis congratulates gay couple for baptizing children."
At the time, Reis told the Blade the letter, sent on official Vatican letterhead with a signed picture of Francis, read, "Pope Francis wishes you happiness, invoking for your family the abundance of divine graces in order to live steadfastly and faithfully as good children of God and of the church.
"We are extremely pleased to have received this unexpected message and what it means for families with same-sex parents," Reis said.
However, Paloma Ovejero, the vice director of the Holy See press office, also confirmed that any notion that the letter showed Francis' approval of same-sex unions is "false".
"Although it is true that in the body of the response there was a reference to a blessing of the family of the recipient, in Portuguese this expression has a generic and ample meaning, equivalent to 'all the people close to you,'" Ovejero told CNA.
She added that in the text of the Vatican letter "there is no element whatsoever that makes reference to the concrete content of Mr. Reis' letter, except for the gratitude of the Pope for the expression of 'esteem and veneration to the Pastor of the Universal Church.'"
Pope Francis has, in the past, emphasized that the gay community should not be "discriminated against" or "marginalized".
"I believe that the church not only should apologize to the person who is gay whom it has offended," he said last year, "but has to apologize to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labor; it has to ask forgiveness for having blessed many weapons."
However, he's also reaffirmed Church teaching on marriage on numerous occasions and voiced concern about what he sees as attacks on marriage and the family.
"(T)he family - as God wants it, composed of a man and a woman for the good of the spouses and also the generation and education of children - is deformed by powerful contrary projects supported by ideological colonization," the Pope told a group in Rome in September 2015.
Last year, the pontiff said that gender theory being taught in schools "is against natural things."
"It is one thing for a person to have this tendency, this option, and even change sex," he said. "But it is another thing to teach it, gender theory, in schools along these lines in order to change mentality. I call this ideological colonization."