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. Star

    You have been reading too much on what the Pope have said. This has been always the stand of the catholic church. The catholic church is all embracing recognizing that everyone is a sinner. I'm also sure that this is the personal stand of Pope Benedict. We catholics love them both.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  2. DRJJJ

    God loves us all, but only those that put their faith in Christ will see him for eternity-the Bible! We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, but habitual sin defines us, don't be fooled by the enemy! Repent! Thanks

    July 29, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • Mr Mackey

      Drugs are bad, mmmmmkay.

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


      God loves us all...BUT??? But? Really? I mean, Did God every say, I love you, BUT????

      July 29, 2013 at 11:54 am |
      • linda

        Jesus said "Go and sin no more." Nowhere did He say, "It's ok if you keep sinning, you'll still get into Heaven."

        July 29, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
  3. Random Rambler

    The Pope says: condemn the sin, not the person.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  4. Angel Moronic

    Whoo hoo ! This is Liberation Theology at works ! Thank you Pope for peessing off stoggy old fundamentalists.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  5. Patti Sullivan

    Regarding reference to. 'Divorced Catholics not being able to receive Communion'....incorrect! According to Church doctrine, divorced Catholics CAN receive Communion – divorced Catholics who remarry can not....archaic!

    July 29, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  6. creative36

    Yes, who are you to judge anyone about anything? It's 2013 and you are wearing a clown outfit with a stupid hat. You follow an outdated and destructive cult. That's all religion is. It's a cult followed by the weak, desperate and stupid.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • Ryan

      Please enlighten us then with your wisdom.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:26 am |
      • creative36


        July 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • cgattman

      The Pope is the ideological and spritual leader of about one sixth of the world, fool. When he leads a billion people in a forward direction instead of having them tread water for another generation, that's something to celebrate, not to stand around and make fun of.

      Grow up.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:28 am |
      • creative36


        July 29, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Plato

      You're a_retard.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:34 am |
      • creative36


        July 29, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  7. NotWholeStory

    CNN should print the whole conversation instead of just the parts that fit their political or financial agenda to get viewers. Always verify at least 5 sources of non secular news to find the truth, especially when on the web.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • JCC Jr

      C'mon. Hand over the rest of it, as you seem to be really sure of this.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  8. Rock

    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.

    LMAO!!! No Broads Allowed

    July 29, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  9. j

    this statement coming from the same fool that says atheists are going to heaven

    July 29, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • sam

      That's not what he actually said. Can you not read?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • Rick Dee

      Just looking at the reply's above, you can see how inflexible we are as a whole. In order to disagree with an opinion, one should have all facts pertaining to it. If not we should be wise to keep them to ourselves, instead of insulting others. We have a long way to go people.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:34 am |
      • Mr Mackey

        New to the internet?

        July 29, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  10. Garrett from Texas

    To those who say the Church is anti-Science: Please remember that is was Catholic scientists at a Catholic research center that first theorized The Big Bang.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • JCC Jr

      Oh. So did the rest of the catholic Church accept this astonishing fact too ???

      July 29, 2013 at 11:27 am |
      • Chris R

        Actually yes. The Catholic Church also accepts evolution (with a role for God in the process) and believes that the earth is 4.5 billion years old. They don't think it was created in 7 24 hour days nor do they reject science. It's been a long long time since Galileo – the church has changed.

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

          Why did it need to change, though? How could it have been wrong in the first place? And if it's been wrong in the past...is it still wrong about some things?

          July 29, 2013 at 11:50 am |
        • cedar rapids

          'The Catholic Church also accepts evolution (with a role for God in the process) and believes that the earth is 4.5 billion years old'

          Point of order: They dont actually 'accept' evolution or 4.5 billion old earth as being correct,; they instead say that such an idea does not contradict the idea of god. Subtle difference but a difference none the less.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  11. JCC Jr

    What did Jesus have to say about the issue, hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ????

    July 29, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • creative36

      Jesus? Jesus never existed.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:25 am |
      • Plato

        The existence of Jesus isn't refuted by anyone at this point, besides morons.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • bizc8

      And that's what ultimately matters: WHAT DID JESUS SAY? Let's see:


      BEING gay isn't the issue. The issue lies in acting out your gay tendencies. That's when you SIN. Wanting to steal isn't sin, stealing is. You can't marginalize someone because they have an inner struggle and are looking to do the right thing. Lobbying is a clear indication of lack of repentance and THAT is what the pope is referring to.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  12. liberal disease

    good guy, POPPA not consumed with Power, ask Rev Wright what he thinks about gays and Jews!

    July 29, 2013 at 11:21 am |
  13. jw

    The pope forgets to preach repentance. One's destiny after death is either heaven or hell, no purgatory. Repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone to save you is required in order to receive forgiveness from God and eternal life. That means that gays and all other sinners (everyone) must stop practicing sin, have a change of mind, and trust in Jesus for salvation. God accepts us as we are when we come to Him, but requires that we repent. So the most important thing one must think of is not "will the Catholic church accept me if I continue practicing my sins" but will God accept me if I continue practicing my sins. No, He will not!! REPENTANCE AND OBEDIENCE TO THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST is what will get you to heaven.
    So either believe the pope or believe God. God is the Savior and Judge.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Plato

      Catholics believe in purgatory, you clown.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Heaven, Hell, Limbo, Purgatory, Valhalla, The Celestial Kingdom, The Elysian Fields, Sheol, Tartarus, Tlaloc's Garden etc. ad nauseum.
      There have been innumerable afterlife myths in history and not a single one is any more or less real than the other.
      They can't all be right, but they can all be wrong.

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

      Yes well, according to Catholic doctrine you evangelicals are heretics and you will all burn for it. Shall I save you a seat in Hell?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • cedar rapids

      what hurt does it do god that someone does not believe in him?

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

        What hurt would it do if your son said that he believed someone else was his father and not you and lived his life in a way that didn't allow you the time of day to talk with him, visit with him, reminisce with him, dream with him, teach him?


        July 29, 2013 at 11:57 am |
        • cedar rapids

          But Im not a supreme all powerful being. I am a human being, with the limits of being human.
          And I very much hope my son lives the life that makes him happy, even if I do end up disagreeing with some of his choices.
          What I would not do however is condemn my son to eternal torment because we had a falling out.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  14. creative36


    July 29, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  15. B.

    Big jump from Gays are going to Hell for their behavior.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:19 am |
  16. Ryan

    Here's what God says,

    Romans 6.

    6 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

    2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

    3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

    4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

    5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

    6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

    7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.

    8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:

    9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

    10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

    11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

    13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

    14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

    15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

    16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

    17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

    18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

    19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

    20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.

    21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

    22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

    23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • AE

      Paul wrote that.

      Do you worship Paul?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:19 am |
      • NCMatt

        Christians believe that Scripture is God-breathed...so while it comes through men, the author is God himself. We don't worship the conduit, just the real author, which is God. Thanks.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:29 am |
        • AE

          The Bible is a collection of stories about myths, history, parables, poetry and wisdom inspired by God.

          A group of men determined which stories would be included – and which should be left out.

          It may have been inspired by God – but it was written, edited, published and distributed by human hands.

          The Bible is not God. It points to God. Christians should worship the living God – not the Bible.

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

          AE, this is what you're saying:

          We worship God, not the bible.
          The bible cannot accurately describe the God we worship.
          Therefore, we worship whatever God we want.

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

          No, that is not what I mean.

          Jesus says he can show us the way to God. His spirit can guide us to the living God.

          Access to God is more readily available to us – than it was in the past. This is good news!

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


          And you know the Spirit of God is available to us more now than ever because of what? Have you laid hands on people to cure them of their sickness? Have you cast out demons? I have yet to see these miracles performed on the spot like they were in the early church. We have the gift of the Bible. Signs and wonders are non-existent today. God said that a wicked and perverse generation will ask for a sign and none will be given. I believe God's Word over your blind intuition of Spirit. God said to test the Spirits, and we do that by lining up what a person says with the Word of God.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
        • AE

          I know the Spirit of God is available to us more now than ever because of what Jesus said.

          He told his disciples his death would be a good thing – He would leave his spirit behind for peace.

          God is still with us. His love is greater than the hate of the wicked and perverse generation.

          I don't feel abandoned. I have the Good Shepherd to walk me through the valley of the shadow of death.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • ellid

      No, that's what St. Paul said. Not quite the same thing.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • j

      yeah, the same write said in Romans 1 that gays are going to hell

      July 29, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Pastor

      God didn't say that. Paul did.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:21 am |
      • Ryan

        Paul didn't say that, the Spirit of God did.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • sam

      Yet again someone doesn't understand their own freaking holy book.

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

      God said? Huh?

      July 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  17. snowboarder

    "who am i to judge?"

    that is a very unusual sentiment for a member of the religious hierarchy.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • David

      I guess he actually read the part that said, "Judge not lest you be judged."

      July 29, 2013 at 11:29 am |

      It's a very profound statement. God should be the only judge and the pope recognizes that he is not God and Catholics should make sure they don't see him that way either

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

      It's about time one of them stepped out of the box. Times change. If the church doesn't change with them it will get left behind. That is not opinion.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  18. Marena Groll

    And buried in the article a few words for that other little demographic that makes up over half the world – "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."

    But should we take heart in the crumbs-from-the-table words calling for "the role of women in the church, ... deeper and not end and "more work needed to be done theologically on the role of women in the church?" Yet it is breathtakingly oppressive if you consider the idea that accepting and not judging gays (finally some progress) is less controversial than the idea of a woman being your leadership equal. Women your equal? The theological horror and blasphemy ...

    July 29, 2013 at 11:17 am |
  19. kiob

    it seems nobody here actually read what the Pope said, and then give his judgement without knowledge.
    he said: "as every other people, gays should not be judged by how they are, but by what they do"

    he never said anything to condone pedophilia, quite the opposite.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:16 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.