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. badcafe

    Baby steps... this pope accepts gays in church. The next will perhaps allow women priests.. we are heading to an egalitarian society... surprising it's taking so long, but at least it's one step at a time in the right direction.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  2. MikeinAZ

    When will the Pope almost admit to the real truth. That god does not exist!

    July 29, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Sitara12006

      One pope said, 'this myth of christ has served us well'

      July 29, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Tommy

      Perhaps when science proves there is no god.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:55 am |
      • MikeinAZ

        Science has already proven this.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:58 am |
        • Tommy

          "Science has proven god does not exist". So, scientist have visited every part of space and time in the same instance and found that God does not exist. Then science is more amazing than I thought.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:03 am |
        • Ken

          science cannot prove negatives. You of all people should know this.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • VedX

      the biggest pyramid scheme of all time.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  3. Willy

    "Who am I to judge". Dude, you're the pope. still, non believing people will use anything to make people hate the church and keep them from God in whom they do not believe. It is part of our evil nature we inherited from Adam. whether I agree or not I think this pope is showing wisdom considering his position.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  4. CNNisAhoax

    Watch this please CNN is hoax news! America wake up! I will space the www to try n get this post approved http://www .youtube.com/watch?v=xdK26vO6wtQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    July 29, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  5. naiemahmad

    You now will have a Gay Choir!

    July 29, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • familyfreedom

      Sounds like you're excited to join!

      July 29, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • JCC Jr

      Most cities in America have had Gay Men's Choruses for around 30 years. Do keep up, please..............

      July 29, 2013 at 11:08 am |
  6. thepopehas spoken

    Morsey got kicked out for less.... lets see the reaction from the hard liners ?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  7. Kate

    What about abolishing celibacy (which is largely fiction) and married priests?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • rocketscientist

      I recall reading in a previous article that Pope Francis said that, at this time, he doesn't think they should remove the celibacy/married priests requirement (despite the fact that there are a few married Cathoic priests already).

      We hear over and over about the shortage of priests, so I don't understand why they wouldn't make celibacy optional (and this is where someone points out how the church doesn't want to pay their priests salaries large enough to support families).

      July 29, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  8. Jesus the Christ

    So gay marriage destroys the "sanct ity" of marriage?

    What does divorce do?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  9. Well

    The pope doesn't think it's a big deal, so why does CNN?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Jesus the Christ

      Because CNN is exited that there is one less bigot in the world.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  10. lcleejr

    you can bet that many catholics are not going to be happy with pope francis, especially conservative catholics

    July 29, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  11. Mike

    Marginalizing of groups isn't what is causing this exodus from the church... It's EDUCATION! There is an inverse relationship between education and one's ability to accept mythology. As people become more educated they will realize how silly organized religion is.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  12. Woody

    No one should be judged by mere human mammals that where a robe . But the fact remains that the wolves in sheep clothing simply need the people that will give them money so they can live the lives of wealthy like all of the Roman empire did centuries ago . I was an altar boy and I have been to Rome . There are very few people that ride in a 550,000.00 car and has people to do everything for them . To be Pope is to live like a true Roman of wealth ! The problem is that wealth comes from the poorest of the poor . Most all of them will never even be able to afford a plane ticket or a car , or a home with electricity and running water . All they have is hope .

    July 29, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • laughnow27513

      Big talk which will evaporate the moment the last breath leaves you. Scripture teaches judgement is coming for the ungodly without Christ. Deny it all you want now...this comment will rattle through your tortured head in eternity. Repent while you can. Christ loves you and will save you if you call on Him.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:51 am |
      • Woody

        Fact is I know a lot more than you and my head has traveled the world . And I am sure yours has too ??

        July 29, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • Woody

      Sorry for spelling errors as spell check likes to change the words I try to type .

      July 29, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • Snowshoes

      Woody, when our hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have riches beyond any material thing this world has to offer. God says to focus on eternal life with Jesus, our time on this earth is short.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  13. naiemahmad

    Not to mention how many people are living with each other without getting marriage...you got your self a repeat of History.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  14. Snowshoes

    I failed to mention, Mike Gendron was a catholic for over 30 years..

    July 29, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  15. drowlord

    He's not the pope that the Catholic church wants, but he's the Pope the Catholic church needs. I see the last century's worth of Pope leadership spinning in their graves and frothing at the mouth... But he's doing what probably needs to be done to stay ahead of the social and cultural changes that would inevitably kill it.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  16. zong gem

    The issue is not what the Pope said about judging gay or lesbians, after all the pope cannot equally judge robbers and terrorists but he be bold to say God hates sin and all these are sinful acts that must be repented of. The issue is not about condemnation but about what God calls sin. Take it or leave it. Leave Pope out of this and face God.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • truthsayer

      um 'f' your silly god

      July 29, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  17. beerndrums

    So the Pope says it's fine to be gay and all that silly stuff?That's really funny stuff

    July 29, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Jesus the Christ

      You seem to be very excited that he's good with gays now. Good for you!

      July 29, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Rick

      No....the pope did not say he was fine with gays. He said who is he to judge....in othr words it is God's place to judge not his.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  18. Scott

    2 Tim 4:3 "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth..."
    foolish intellectuals attempt to disqualify scripture, but all the while they are fulfilling prophecy. "the confounded wise...lol"

    July 29, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  19. Shorty

    Notice he says women should have a bigger role in the church...not an equal role.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Sasha B.

      I'm pretty sure it means women should have a larger role than we have now. Not a larger role than what men have.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Wake up

      A wold in white robes. What is it about women that scares the church? Did not God create them also? So Jesus said nothing about gays or abortion and the church condemns them. Sounds like the Church must drop stupid things and teach Jesus teachings. christians are such idi0ts.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  20. Snowshoes

    Those following the Catholic religion must have a desire to know the truth before they will hear with their ears. If you don't know you have been deceived you will believe what you have been taught. If you truly desire the truth, read the Bible. GOD'S WORD IS INFALLIBLE. The Pope is a MAN and man is capable of deception. The Bible speaks of false religions and wolves in sheep's clothing. Many have been deceived. A great site to explore is Proclaiming The Gospel.org or Mike Gendron Tell Catholics The Truth you tube. JESUS – the ONLY WAY, the ONLY TRUTH and the ONLY LIFE.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Damocles

      But, wait, can't gospel. org and Mike Gendron also be deceiving you? 'Of course not' you say 'they are saying exactly what I want to hear'.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:49 am |
      • Snowshoes

        He was a catholic for over 30 years!

        July 29, 2013 at 10:59 am |
        • Damocles

          And? How many years of experience does one require to be sure that the person is not deceiving them?

          July 29, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Sam

      I doubt you know more about the Catholic religion than the Pope.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:50 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.