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July 29th, 2013
08:48 AM ET

Pope Francis on gays: 'Who am I to judge?'

By John L. Allen Jr. and Hada Messia, CNN

Aboard the Papal Airplane (CNN) - Pope Francis said Monday that he will not "judge" gays and lesbians, including gay priests, signaling a shift from his predecessor and offering another sign that the new pope is committed to changing the church's approach to historically marginalized groups.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis said in a wide-ranging news conference aboard the papal plane.

Though he was answering a question about the so-called "gay lobby" at the Vatican, the pope indicated a change in tone, if not in teaching, in the church's stance towards gays and lesbians more generally.

The pope was flying back to Rome from Brazil, where he spent the past week celebrating World Youth Day, an international Catholic event that drew millions.

Taking questions from reporters aboard the plane, the pope addressed nearly every hot-button issue facing the Roman Catholic Church: its alleged "gay lobby," Vatican bank corruption, the role of women, abortion, homosexuality and his own personal security.

But it was the pope's remarks on homosexuality - the fact that the head of a 1 billion-member church said that it's not his place to judge gays - that caused the widest stir.

"Pope Francis's brief comment on gays reveals great mercy," said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at America, a Catholic magazine based in New York.

"Today Pope Francis has, once again, lived out the Gospel message of compassion for everyone," Martin said.

The pontiff spoke  for an hour and a half in the back of the plane that was carrying him back to Italy after his first international trip as pope to Brazil, where he was greeted by massive, frenzied crowds at every turn.

"I'm happy. It has been a beautiful trip, spiritually speaking; it has been good to me. I'm tired enough but with a heart full of joy," he said.

Here are the highlights from his press conference.

On the 'gay lobby' and homosexuality

The pope addressed the issue of an alleged "gay lobby" within the church. Hints that the Holy See contained a network of gay clergy surfaced last year in reports about a series of embarrassing leaks to Italian journalists.

The "Vatileaks" scandal factored in Benedict's shocking decision to resign this year, according to some church experts, as it impressed upon the 86-year-old pontiff that the modern papacy requires a vigorous and watchful presence.

"There's a lot of talk about the gay lobby, but I've never seen it on the Vatican ID card!" Francis said.

"When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn't be marginalized. The tendency (to homosexuality) is not the problem ... they're our brothers."

The problem, he said was, lobbies that work against the interest of the church.

In 2005, during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican issued directives barring from the priesthood men "who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called 'gay culture.'"

Francis' brief remarks seem to signal a sharp shift from that policy.

On women

The pope also spoke out about the role of women in the church, saying it needs to be deeper and not end. But he brushed aside the possibility of ordaining women as priests, saying the church had spoken on the matter: "The church says no. That door is closed." He did say that more work needed to be done theologically on the role of women in the church.

On abortion

Pope watchers have noted that Francis said little to nothing about abortion on his trip to Brazil. Abortion is illegal in Brazil, except for cases in which the health of the mother is at risk. Laws were recently changed to allow abortions in cases in which the child would be born with certain life-threatening birth defects.

The pope said he had nothing to say on the trip about abortion because the church teachings against it were clear and this trip was the time for "positive" news.

On divorce

"I believe this is a time of mercy, a change of epoch," the pope said when asked about divorce. He said the group of eight cardinals tasked with reform will explore the issue of whether divorcees can receive Communion, which they are currently barred from doing.

On the Vatican Bank

The pope conceded he was unsure what to do with the Vatican Bank, which is known by its acronym IOR.

"Some say that it would be better if it were a bank, others say that it should be a foundation. Other say to shut it down. These are the suggestions going around. I don't know. I trust the commission's members that are working on the IOR. But I wouldn't be able to tell you how this story is going to end."

And as for what was in the black leather bag he carried onto the plane? A razor, a prayer book, a diary and a book about St. Theresa, but, the pope joked, "Certainly not the keys to the atomic bomb!"

He said he carried his own bags because, "It's normal, we have to be normal. We have to be accustomed to being normal."

CNN's Eric Marrapodi and Daniel Burke contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Abortion • Brazil • Catholic Church • Pope Francis • Vatican

soundoff (3,302 Responses)
  1. Steven Colo

    Glad to see that Benedict was a weird aberration, a throwback to the bad old days. Francis is a worthy follower to John Paul II.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • GoodMove

      Francis was PJP's #1. PJP did nothing about molesting priests either.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • John

      That's Saint PJPII to you!

      July 29, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  2. abel agbaji

    May the lord have marcy on the pope even if he ls not to jugde anyone, what of advice before the act

    July 29, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Marcy

      Yep, I'm on the pope.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Agnostickids

      Whata ara youa sayinga?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:55 am |
  3. ryanedwardsullivan

    By suspending his judgment, he is negating his person. When one declares: “Who am I to judge?” he is declaring: “Who am I to live?”

    July 29, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • What?

      This makes no sense and is pretty dim.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  4. Cassarit

    I had very bad feeling about this guy. He came from the country that has produced Eva and Peron, Guevara, Galtieri and a ton of other charlatans and pilferers. Now he has proven himself to be no better than his paisanos. Bring back Benedict XVI now!

    July 29, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Michael

      Yes, bring back Benedict's corruption and endorsement of pedophilia. It's all worth it to have a pope who foams at the mouth over how much he hates gays.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  5. Jeff

    The Christian god is a dick.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • US Marine Captain

      Not at all. He simply does not like you. Nor do a lot of people I guessing from your comments.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:41 am |
      • Jeff

        1. The way you portray him makes him a dick.
        2. He is imaginary.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  6. Mike

    GLad we have a stronger pope to see the world...most pope just does not want to leave Rome.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  7. tevii

    Cracks me up... Catholicism is so flexible over time. Before they killed people for believing the earth was round, only decades ago they said their were no dinosaurs, they changed that, then they said there was no life in the universe other than here, then they said it was a possibility, then they were against gays, now the Pope is leading the way for that to change.
    When will people realize this stuff adapts to reality to maintain control over people? Its just a corporation. If the religion was true in anyway, their preachings and teachings would not be flexible. it would not adapt to new discoveries which are made by science. Wake up people, religion is nothing but your owner

    July 29, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Brian

      It adapts to maintain rank and file and therefore $$$$$. Today's society is becoming more and more informed and educated, which is the main problem they are facing.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  8. GoodMove

    So looks like the liberals in the Catholic church have won out...kicking out the pope that was the leader of conservative movement in that church and replacing him with this guy.

    I don't think will help. Church attendance is way down.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • Observer

      GoodMove,

      Yep. Only 3,000,000 people showed up to hear him.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:39 am |
      • GoodMove

        Not sure what your point is? I'm not saying anything that is news, or at least shouldn't be news to you.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • judy tinker

      We are living in the ALanta Vs and we have many women priests. One officiated at my sister's funeral 4yrs ago and she did a wonderful job.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  9. kathy

    This is very encouraging and a bold statement from a pope for the first time in centuries. Don't know how far the church will go in making actual changes to 'embrace' everyone in the world regardless of that their doctrine states but it is certainly optimistic to hear the leader of the church make such statements. Especially after it appears the last pope had some men on men skeletons in his closet while making damning statements about being gay. Also verrrry happy to hear him mention women being more involved in the church. That's another change that's got to happen.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  10. rickapolis

    Well spoken, Pope Francis, well spoken, indeed.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • Cassarit

      Non-catholics love this guy but Catholics can't stand him.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:42 am |
      • sam

        Where are these catholics that can't stand him?

        July 29, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  11. bilbo

    Tell the people what they want to hear...increase revenue. Simple marketing for money.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • dswe

      Would you complain more if he said nothing or said that gays are to be condemned? Probably.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  12. David Duvall

    Wow, the more I hear this Pope speak the more I'm impressed with him!

    July 29, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  13. John The Baptist

    Oh wonderful! Now can this nice pope go back in time and change every other pope before him?

    July 29, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Thomas Guerra

      No, he can't. It would seem you'd like more than anyone can deliver. But perhaps you could learn to be content knowing that where he's leading is better than the past he's leaving?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Chico

      Why would he need to? Can we just acknowledge the fact that a historic precedent was set without belittling what he did because it wasn't done before as if he had any control over it?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:42 am |
      • John The Baptist

        sorry, new pope, this new approach doesn't absolve the sins of the catholic church.

        July 29, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  14. Kenanah

    Thanks Allah, I am Muslim.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  15. Sam Am

    This is what happen when you follow a modified Bible, you end up with a fake religion.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Observer

      If we followed the actual Bible we'd have slavery.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:32 am |
      • US Marine Captain

        From someone who would take a single verse and not place in in the context of the entire bible – yes. But only a fool would do that. you are not a fool, are you?

        July 29, 2013 at 11:40 am |
        • cedar rapids

          and we all know that believers never take individual verses to bolster a viewpoint right?

          July 29, 2013 at 11:42 am |
      • Marc

        +1000 for you man. Good point

        July 29, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • Doug Wilson

      A modified bible, you mean like the New Testament?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • emskadittle

      isn't catholic bible the least altered bible?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Brian

      Fake religion,is there any other kind?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Michael

      No matter how you slice it, you're still following a religion with talking snakes and donkeys. If anything, being in a religion that isn't sola scriptura allows you to have a religion that's LESS ridiculous. So in that regard, I'd say Francis has one up on you.

      Oh, but you think he's the worse off because he doesn't rabidly hate gays.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Nathan

      So, I take it you read the bible in it's original language? If not, you are reading a modified version. Someone translated it and no translation is ever perfect. Not to mention that it has been modified many times over the past 1500 years or so. Not only that, most of it was written hundreds of years after Jesus' supposed death. Good luck having unmodified stories passed down for generations without slight "modifications".

      July 29, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  16. lionlylamb

    There are the many and then there are the few... While the few are contained by the ever so many, the fewest of few dare voice out above the many few leading the world's ways toward high minded approachable communalisms of mercies abundances ever leveraged within commonly shared stockades of mystified pluralism...

    In worded séances do many massing contortions aimlessly target their wills in other reflective conjoining issues toward bringing holistic bottom-line dwellers their eyesight revelations... It's a sadness of heart spirit and souls that civilizations endure the caustic nomenclatures of human barbarism and conjuring Paganisms... "Love Life's All", I say and dare stand with no matter its lonely perch...

    July 29, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • .

      LL us the belief blog pseudo intellect because of their poor writing skills, don't bother reading, just laugh and move on.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:33 am |
      • cedar rapids

        its like they use a translation service with 'optimum thesaurus' setting.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:45 am |
        • Yo!

          "its like they use a translation service with 'optimum thesaurus' setting."

          Nah, this is just a person compensating for their low self esteem issues, they think if they use big words it will make them seem smarter but it's having the opposite effect. Pus LL believes by writing this way atheists won't challenge their posts.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:51 am |
      • lionlylamb

        [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCMS-NJ7VxU&w=640&h=390]

        July 29, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  17. trollol

    Oh look, the leader of loonies is seeing the light! This is what atheists have been saying for years. The idea itself is very old.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Angel Moronic

      You see true light when your belief serves humankind and not serve a religious dogma.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Hmm

      Aethiesm – just another point of View

      There Are MANY

      July 29, 2013 at 11:31 am |
      • cedar rapids

        and we put all those that claim magic and the supernatural in the same group.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  18. von

    “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
    Now let's see what the liberal media outlet do with this one.....

    July 29, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • JCC Jr

      So, you are saying the conservative media never judges...........m'kay.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Angel Moronic

      Don't know what liberal media will do ; but do know that cons. media like fox is having a hissy fit !

      July 29, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • cedar rapids

      looks like you may be judging the liberal media?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • kathy

      Why do right wing morons like you try to make everything about your paranoia and politics? I am a proud liberal and a one time Catholic but welcome this statement and new with optimism and am encouraged by this. Get down off the cross...it's been done.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  19. anchorite

    I am an atheist, but I have always liked this new Pope, since he has linked himself with Brother Francis. The reason my family was excommunicated was intolerance of a woman initiating a divorce. This Pope has it right. The church does not enforce God's law. If God has a problem with a woman divorcing a worthless husband who never contributed a cent to raise four kids or support his wife, God can take it up with her when she dies. The church is about telling you what is the right thing to do and providing a example. Like nurturing a child, you can't MAKE them do anything right, you can only teach them, love them, tell them when they've screwed up, and love them anyway and hope they get it right someday because you won't be there to discipline them forever.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • von

      it is because of "church hurt", you've decided there's no God?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:28 am |
      • sam

        Reading comprehension is so hard, von, but keep trying. You might learn it one day.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:33 am |
      • jwt

        There was never a reson to decide there is a god.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:38 am |
      • anchorite

        I have no idea what "church hurt" means. I've never decided there was a God. Why would I? I wasn't raised in a religious home. My grandmother was excommunicated. She still believes in God and is confident that she is in his good graces, but she wasn't allowed to come to church anymore, and it was nearly impossible to send her four kids without her, hence my mother didn't learn and didn't carry on down the tradition to her family. Contrary to what you may think atheists do not all hate Christians or wish everyone was atheist, and we're not atheist because we got kicked out of your party, we just don't believe in Christian metaphysics. Although, given some of the bitter atheists on here I wouldn't blame you for coming to that conclusion. Those of us who aren't bitter don't feel the need to comment on every CNN article, but we're out there. I think it's great that Catholics are Catholic, Muslims are Muslim, Hindus are Hindu, etc. It takes all kinds, and they all do good works.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • richunix

      agree with your comment, nicely done.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:30 am |
      • anchorite

        Thank you.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  20. Massman

    Epigenetic markers inherited during preganancy cause these "tendencies". No amount of moralizing will stop straight parents from having gay babies.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Angel Moronic

      moralists hate gay tendency so much, they might have to resort to abortion to prevent their offspring from having that tendency

      July 29, 2013 at 11:27 am |
      • sam

        The moment it becomes possible to tell if a fetus has gay tendencies, the right will scramble to lift all the abortion restrictions they've been yelling for.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:34 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.