In a new documentary, Pope Francis has called for the creation of civil union laws for same-sex couples, in remarks that break from the Catholic Church’s official teaching and mark his clearest support to date for the issue.
“What we have to create is a civil union law,” he said. Francis has long expressed an interest in outreach to the church’s LGBT followers, but his remarks have often stressed general understanding and welcoming — rather than substantive policies.
Priests in some parts of the world bless same-sex marriage, but that stance — and Francis’s new remarks — are a departure from official church teaching. The documentary, “Francesco,” is premiering this week in Rome and later in the United States. The pope gave an interview to the filmmaker, Evgeny Afineevsky, saying that “homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family.”
“They’re children of God and have a right to a family,” the pope said. “Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”
Francis, who became pope in 2013, gave earlier, oblique signals interpreted as openness to recognizing same-gender civil unions. He has usually framed his comments in pragmatic, curious terms — as someone noticing the possible need for legal recognition for existing families, so they can access civil benefits such as heath care.
“This is the first time as pope he’s making such a clear statement,” the Rev. James Martin, a prominent Jesuit who has advocated for the church to more openly welcome LGBT members, said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I think it’s a big step forward. In the past, even civil unions were frowned upon in many quarters of the church. He is putting his weight behind legal recognition of same-sex civil unions.”
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