Pope Francis has become the first pontiff to publicly endorse same-sex unions, a statement which has brought support from LGBTQ activists and angered conservatives.
Speaking during an interview in the documentary ‘Francesco’, the Argentine pope said that same-sex couples deserve to enter into a legal union and have a family.
“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family,” he said in Spanish. “Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”
The feature-length film, directed by Evgeny Afineevsky, premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday [October 21]. It tells the story of Pope Francis’s papacy over the past seven and a half years, and delves into controversial topics like homosexuality and sexual abuse scandals surrounding the Catholic church, as well as the environment, poverty and racial inequality.
Pope Francis previously endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples while serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, but this is the first time expressing this view as pope. He is also the first pope in history to publicly do so.
Father James Martin, a prominent Jesuit who aims to de-stigmatise homosexuality in the Catholic church, has welcomed the Pope’s comments.
“Pope Francis’s support for same-sex civil unions is a major step forward in the church’s support of LGBTQ people,” he wrote on Tiwtter. “It is in keeping with his pastoral approach to LGBT people, including LGBTQIA+ Catholics, and sends a strong signal to countries where the church has opposed such laws.”
Pope Francis has previously said that marriage itself is only between a man and a woman.
“‘Marriage’ is a historic word,” he told French sociologist Dominique Wolton in 2017. “Always among human beings, and not only in the Church, it has been between a man and a woman. You can’t just change that like that.”
Since he was elected Pope in 2013, however, he has dedicated much of his time trying to welcome gay couples to the Church. He has also urged parents to not reject their gay children.
Pope Francis’s support of civil unions is a radical shift from previous pontiffs. The catholic church traditionally opposes same sex marriage and the legal recognition of same-sex unions as they “obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage”, according to a Vatican document from 2003.
In response to the pope’s recent comments, conservative Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island has called for clarification.
“The pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the church about same-sex unions,” he said in a statement. “The church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships.”
Picture: Twitter / Pope Francis