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Pope Francis softens his Church’s tone on gays

02 August 2013


Sea of heads: Roman Catholic worshippers pack Copacabana Beach, in Rio de Janeiro, to hear Pope Francis celebrate the final mass of his visit to Brazil

Sea of heads: Roman Catholic worshippers pack Copacabana Beach, in Rio de Janeiro, to hear Pope Francis celebrate the final mass of his visit to Bra...

POPE Francis has said that he is not in a place to judge gay people, and has called for more women to be given opportunities for leadership in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Pope made the comments at an impromptu press conference during a flight home from Brazil, on Monday, at the end of a week-long visit. Highlights of the visit included a mass on Copacabana beach, on Sunday, for World Youth Day, which was attended by about three million people.

During the press conference on his return flight, Pope Francis said: "If a person is gay, and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him? We shouldn't marginalise people for this. They must be integrated into society."

He continued: "The problem is not having this orientation. . . The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem."

Asked about the status of women in the RC Church, Pope Francis said: "We cannot limit the role of women in the Church to altar girls or the president of a charity; there must be more." On the ordination of women to the priesthood, however, he said: "The Church has spoken and says 'no'. . . That door is closed." 

The gay-rights activist Peter Tatchell said, on Monday, that the Pope had "offered a change of tone in Vatican pronouncements on gay people, but not a change in substance. The Church's hard-line stance against gay equality and relationships remains intact."

The chairman of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council, Joe Stanley, told Newsnight on Monday evening that he welcomed "the change in rhetoric that's come about. . . It's very clear that he didn't say there was going to be any change in church teaching. . . But, by contrast with the last Pope, who . . . really used some extremely uncharitable language towards gay people, this Pope's openness and approachability will make a huge impact on those who are gay and are believers."

On Saturday, the Pope celebrated mass at São Sebastião Cathedral, in Rio de Janeiro, along with about 1000 RC bishops and clerics, where he told them: "We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the gospel."

On Thursday of last week, he visited the Varginha favela, in northern Rio de Janeiro, where he told a crowd: "You are often disappointed by facts that speak of corruption on the part of people who put their own interests before the common good. To you and all, I repeat: never yield to discouragement; do not lose trust; do not allow your hope to be extinguished. Situations can change; people can change."

Pastoral letter. The RC Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, issued a pastoral letter, "The Narrow Gate", last Friday. The letter said that the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples Bill) last month ( News, 19 July) represented "the deconstruction of marriage as it has been understood for millennia. In effect, this Act completes the privatisation of marriage, so that its central content is whatever the couple wish to construct. Marriage is no longer a truly public institution, at the basis of society."


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