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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. sdfdf34

    Who cares what the Pope thinks. Really. If you don't agree with a religion, don't join. I wouldn't become an Orthodox Jew or fundamentalist Muslim because I'd hate to be forced to wear winter clothes during the summer. But there are women who are fine with that. Let them be.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  2. magnum12

    There is a good possibility that he is gay himself, so that would explain his comments on the subject.

    July 31, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • ed dugan

      He may or may not be gay but he sure as hell is totally irrelevant! I'll bet if he didn't wear dresses, funny hats and fancy shoes and just dressed in a suit he wouldn't get nearly as much press and the world would be much less bored.

      July 31, 2013 at 9:54 am |
      • manangdi22

        The fact that you took the time to comment about his article is contradicting what you are saying, or maybe you are just one bored no life person!

        July 31, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
  3. Duncan Donuts

    I think you are moot!!

    July 31, 2013 at 8:19 am |
  4. Duncan Donuts

    Who is the imbecile who is making all the comments on peoples comments? I'm talking about the jerk who states
    "Which is it Mary", "I don't want to waste my time reading the bible"
    I mean really, can't you guys do better than that? I say fire the moron and hire some competent people!

    July 31, 2013 at 8:17 am |
  5. HAYES

    What's new about this? Milton Keynes McDonald's have iPads too

    July 30, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
  6. Massman

    Why do you suppose there are gay people in the world? Why do you think they have been present throughout recorded history and why do they seem to exist in the same relative numbers in every country, culture and time? Is anyone here proposing that some standard number of people wake up one day and say "Gee, I think I'll be gay now."

    July 30, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • lindy

      That's what truly retarded people think, instead of the same percent of the population being born that way.

      July 30, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  7. Jacob

    I am concerned that people in America, with all its blessings, are so hard headed stubborn to allow Christ into their lives. This world is temporary, Jesus said he was not of this world. Once you submit to Jesus and release yourself from the darkness that thwarts man kinds ability to make peace among men, the entire planet will live as one. But seeing that America is no where near saving itself from its short comings, peace may not be prevalent in the near future. We must pray for those that are non-believers, there are many on this blog.

    Our politicians may have noble intentions, but their actions are what make them of the people, for the people with GOD. Lets pray for our Politicians.....

    July 30, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • niknak

      Let's prey ON our politicians.
      Oh, and by the way, one can't let something into their lives that does not exist.
      Like your jeebus.

      July 30, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
      • bubba

        you will one day remember the comment you made, .....and yes we do need to pray for this country and its leaders....!!

        August 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • One one

      How can I let a myth into my life and pretend its real,when I know it's not ?

      July 30, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
  8. Erasmus

    If the Pope studied the Bible, then there wouldn't be a Pope?

    July 30, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Junior

      I am pretty sure he read Matthew 16

      July 31, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
  9. Richard Cranium

    A whole page of comments just disappered...thanks CNN.

    July 30, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
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About this blog

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.