Pope Francis endorses same-sex civil unions, saying: ‘Homosexuals are children of God and have the right to be in a family’
- Papal approval came midway through feature-length documentary ‘Francesco’
- The film premiered at the Rome Film Festival, Italy, earlier today
- It is first time Francis has endorsed same-sex civil unions since taking papal role
Pope Francis has endorsed same-sex civil unions, saying in a documentary that homosexual people are ‘children of God’ and that they ‘have the right to be in a family’.
His approval came midway through a feature-length film, titled Francesco, which had its premiere at the Rome Film Festival earlier today.
The film delves into issues Francis cares about most, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.
‘Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it,’ the 83-year-old said in one of his sit-down interviews for the film.
‘What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.’
He added that he ‘stood up for that’ in an apparent reference to his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires when he opposed legislation to approve same sex marriages but supported some kind of legal protection for the rights of gay couples.
The Pope’s remarks will come as a shock to millions of Roman Catholics who have long followed the doctrine that gay relationships are sinful and accepted the Church’s stand against the worldwide advance of gay rights.
The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful but that homosexual acts are.
It also instructs that homosexuals should be treated with dignity.
Francis’s predecessors, including Benedict XVI and John Paul II, condemned same-sex marriage during their papal tenure.
Francis himself had opposed legislation to approve same-sex marriages in Argentina when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires a decade ago – but had supported some kind of legal protection for the rights of gay couples at the time.
However, shortly after becoming Pope, he said of gay people that ‘we must be brothers’.
He added: ‘If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge him?’
Papal biographer Austen Ivereigh told Reuters that the pope’s comments made in the film were some of the clearest language the pontiff has used on the subject since his election in 2013.
The pope, who early in his papacy made the now-famous ‘Who am I to judge?’ remark about homosexuals trying to live a Christian life, spoke in a section of the film about Andrea Rubera, a gay man who with his partner adopted three children.
Rubera says in the film that he went to a morning Mass the pope held in his Vatican residence and gave him a letter explaining his situation.
He told the pope that he and his partner wanted to bring the children up as Catholics in the local parish but did not want to cause any trauma for the children.
It was not clear in which country Rubera lives.
Rubera said the pope telephoned him several days later, telling him he thought the letter was ‘beautiful’ and urging the couple to introduce their children to the parish but to be ready for opposition.
‘His message and his advice was really useful because we did exactly what he told us.
‘It’s the third year that they [the children] are on a spiritual path in the parish,’ Rubera says in the film.
‘He didn’t mention what was his opinion about my family so (I think) he is following the doctrine on this point but the attitude towards people has massively changed,’ he said.
Oscar-nominated director Evgeny Afineevsky was given remarkable access to cardinals, the Vatican television archives and the pope himself to create the documentary.
He said he negotiated his way in through persistence, and deliveries of Argentine mate tea and Alfajores cookies that he got to the pope via some well-connected Argentines in Rome.
The premiere comes after the Pope praised a breastfeeding mother as he reverted to going without a coronavirus face mask during the Vatican general audience earlier today.
Francis mentioned Switzerland’s Valentina Frey at the start of the audience in the Paul VI hall while she breastfed her daughter Charlotte Katharina.
He said the act was an example of ‘tenderness’ and ‘beauty’ before continuing his speech.
The Pope said: ‘Something caught my attention while the readers were reciting the Biblical passages there was the baby over there that was crying.
‘And I was looking at the mother. Who was nursing the baby and comforting her.
‘I was thinking about how God is like this with us. How he often tries to comfort us and nurse us.’
He continued: ‘It is a beautiful image when we see this happening in church and we hear a baby crying and we see a mother’s tenderness.
‘We thank her for her witness. The tenderness of a mother is a symbol of God’s tenderness with us.
‘Never silence a baby in church because that is the voice that draws God’s tenderness. Thank you for you witness.’
The Pope did not wear a face mask for the duration of the audience again or when he greeted a half-dozen mask-less bishops at the end.
He shook hands and leaned in to chat privately with each one.
While the clerics wore masks while seated during the audience, all but one took his mask off to speak to the pope.
Only one kept it on, and by the end of his tete-a-tete with Francis, had lowered it under his chin.
Vatican regulations now require face masks to be worn indoors and out where distancing can’t be ‘always guaranteed’.
The Vatican has not responded to questions about why the pope was not following either Vatican regulations or basic public health measures to prevent Covid-19.
Francis explained to the audience why he did not plunge into the crowd at the start of the audience as he usually would do.
But he said his distance from them was for their own well-being, to prevent crowds from forming around him.
He said: ‘I’m sorry for this, but it’s for your own safety. Rather than get close to you, shake your hands and greet you, I greet you from far away. But know that I’m close to you with my heart.’
He did not address his decision to forego wearing a mask.
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Francis did, however, wear a white face mask throughout an inter-religious prayer service in downtown Rome yesterday, removing it only to speak.
He had previously only been seen wearing one once before as he entered and exited his car in a Vatican courtyard on September 9.
Italian law requires masks indoors and out.
At 83 years old, and with part of a lung removed when he was in his 20s due to illness, the pope would be at high risk for Covid-19 complications.
He has urged the faithful to comply with government mandates to protect public health.
In the past week, 11 Swiss Guards and a resident of the hotel where Francis lives have tested positive.
In Italy, coronavirus cases are surging, with the Lazio region around Vatican City among the hardest hit.
Lazio has more people hospitalised and in intensive care than any other region except Italy’s most populous and hardest-hit region, Lombardy.
Inside the Vatican auditorium Wednesday, the crowd wore masks as did the Swiss Guards. But Francis and his two aides did not.