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. Gerri

    Well I guess when it comes down to losing money (parishioners) then the rules (or 'God's word' as they have preached for centuries) can be changed pretty fast....

    July 29, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  2. Liz

    I'm going to assume that as he's the Pope, and Catholics believe in the Apocalypse that he has some sort on inside information about something big that's going down that he's accepting gay people and that the role of women in the church needs to change. This is really freaking me out. Pope Francis, please provide us with the date of when this big event is going to happen b/c your views are so far out that there's no way a Pope would be this accepting and humble and great unless bad things are coming our way.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  3. Pope Knows God's Children

    This is a wonderful start to the end of discrimination against Gays and Lesbians in the billion-some member Catholic Church, as should be done. Kudos to the Pope for being open-minded enough on this issue such as to openly make his declaration as he did on the matter. Others should certainly follow his great example! Jesus spoke not one word against Gays and Lesbians and the Scriptures used to discriminate against them, such as Leviticus and others, are not speaking about Gays, they speak to other things according to Biblical scholars but people have conveniently used them inappropriately for the purpose of continued discrimination. But that has now been brought to light by Pope Francis, unlike any former pope in history! He truly understands that Gays and Lesbians are BORN that way thus, he cannot judge them and neither should we. They too are God's children just like everybody else.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Frank

      You display so much ignorance it's unbelievable. The Pope or whoever does not matter. Man is a sinner. He needs to be redeemed. God for a certainty will judge sin. Homesxailty is a sin just as much is lying, murder, stealing, unforgiveness etc. we seek people that will give a seal of approval to our sinful nature. Please don't be deceived Jesus loves you that s why he died for you.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
  4. Jesus the Christ

    So I get back to earth and I'm like, what the f***? Why are all these crosses everywhere????

    If JFK came back to earth, do you think he'd want to see snipers everywhere????

    July 29, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Rediranch

      Jesus wasn't killed, he willingly sacrificed himself to provide everyone an opportunity to cleanse themselves from the penalty of sin. The problem is some people who say they are Christians think that gives them free reign to sin without repentance. As humans we can never stop sinning – but we can regret it, and do our best to avoid it – that is what a Christian is.

      I assume by your demeanor that you do not care to follow Christ – that is your option.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  5. David Strapko

    Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Pope, ahh not so much...

    July 29, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Brian

      This pope is more Christ-like than the bulk of his predecessors.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Bohemer

      Not forever, only until his religious patent is sold to the highest bidder. Then comes retirement, long overdue :-))

      July 29, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  6. Louis

    This is not the first time that the man who wore the Pope's hat was a heretic.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Joe

      Fundamentalist nonsense like that is exactly why so many people are leaving the church right now. How, exactly, is moving the church in a direction that preaches what we are for rather than what we are against heresy? It's not, and anyone who thinks it is is using the Catholic religion to preach hate, which IS heresy.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I know!
      What's with this guy and his compassion, humility and forgiveness?
      Those aren't Christian virtues at all!
      Oh, wait a minute.....

      July 29, 2013 at 10:03 am |
      • Ryan

        I don't know anyone who can be pope and have humility. Obviously he may have humility when it comes to pleasing man, but his humbleness should be toward God and what the Bible (God's Word) says. The Pope should remove gay priests, and teach them Romans 1 again.

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


          Since you just pick-and-choose from the Bible, why not pick the Golden Rule next time? You have heard of how important it is, right?

          July 29, 2013 at 10:56 am |
        • Ryan

          And read 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 11:10 am |
  7. H @ Idaho

    Finally a Pope that has actually read the Bible!

    July 29, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  8. joel

    Fixed it for you..

    “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord, Repents and has good will, who am I to judge?”

    July 29, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Casey

      The Pope had it right the first time.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:59 am |
      • joel

        So what is sin?

        July 29, 2013 at 10:02 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Sin lies only in harming others unnecessarily.
          All other "sin" is invented nonsense.

          July 29, 2013 at 10:05 am |
        • Bender Bending Rodriguez

          What about cheating on your wife w/o her finding out? Wouldn’t that be a sin?

          July 29, 2013 at 10:08 am |
        • Baptists are Hedonistic

          Sin is defined as being apart from God.

          July 29, 2013 at 10:32 am |
        • Bender Bending Rodriguez

          Why are Baptists hedonistic?

          July 29, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • byonespirit

      Does sin now harm God? or was David wrong in Psalm 51?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  9. iverson7502

    I hold out hope that this pope means what he says and will bring me back to the time when I was still a proud catholic. When Pope John Paul II died and Benedict took over the church, I was very disappointed in the direction the church went.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  10. kweuku

    Is the pope supporting gays lesbians, please don't go contrary to GOD creation, that is man and woman and not man and man or woman and woman I beg you ,you are the head of HIS church.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • thepopehas spoken

      I think you will find he is supporting humanity . Unlike You !

      July 29, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • God

      And I beg of you to listen when I say, "Judge not lest ye be judged."


      "As I have loved you, Love one another."


      Love one another, except g*ys....

      July 29, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Can you be begged not to be a bigot and not to use your belief to tell others how they should or shouldn't live, especially when they cause no harm to you and pay taxes exactly as you do???

      July 29, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Jeff E.

      Being the head of the church does not mean delegating by fear and condemnation...

      July 29, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • mike

      You do realize that claiming to know God's thoughts is blasphemy, right?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  11. jimcolyer

    Maybe the pope is gay. "Francis" sounds gay to me!

    July 29, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  12. Johnjon

    I am in awe of this man. for longer than I can remember I've felt like an outsider in respect to my Catholic upbringing. I had many years of confusion when I was in my teens. my parents sent me to therapy with Catholic Social Services who told them I was more than likely gay. when I was forced to tell them about myself they took my car away, threw me out of the house and I was forced to leave college in order to support myself. many years later we reconciled after they realized I wouldn't change, but I still felt grief about my Catholic faith and what God meant to me. I knew God loved me despite what others would have me believe, and I still feel that way.
    my partner and I have been together 23 years. my parents took us on a cruise for our 10th anniversary. we hope to marry one day, but in the past several months we've dealt with losing both mothers and always wished they could witness our dream become a reality. we celebrated last month when DOMA was struck down and look forward to the day when marriage equality will be offered to everyone. I tell people I thank God every day for bringing my partner to my life. I still smile when I think of him, and wonder what the future holds for us. with this humble man as head of the church, I think our future is a little brighter

    July 29, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  13. Typo

    Pope Benedict XVI*

    July 29, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  14. Yngvi

    This Pope is showing all the signs or being a reasonable human being who believes in compassion, forgiveness and fairness. All three, something that the Catholic church has become so estranged from.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • James Emond

      He is rather showing that he's a coward and doesn't have a clue.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  15. Moses Sye

    Great respect! Something Jesus Himself would like to hear.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  16. Jesus is Lord

    He will face judgment from The Lord for not doing what's right. We need to stand up against the tyranny and oppression from the libs who keep trying to make the choice of being gay a good one. They've pressured the Pope so much that he's willing to go along with it? How sick is that? He knows that it's a sin. I have a feeling that this Pope may be the anti-Christ. The Bible tells us that people will follow him. Here is a man that is twisting God's word and crumpling it up and throwing it in a camp fire. Liberals naturally enjoy sinning more than most groups, so they will fall for the anti-Christ first. Real Christians will know that he is not of God and won't be fooled. We truly are in the end times and I will not be fooled by the wolf in sheep's clothing. This Pope is working under Satan's guidance.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • midwest rail

      And there you have the 3 primary characteristics of contemporary evangelical Christianity on display in all its glory. Ugh.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • Observer

      Cut the hypocrisy. No one believes every word of the Bible. You just choose what you like and ignore the rest. Looks like the Pope has chosen the very important Golden Rule. Read about it sometime.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Darko

      I thought Obama was the anti-christ?

      July 29, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • God


      July 29, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Casey

      Tyranny of oppression from gays? Seriously? Gays are not trying to keep Christians from marrying, adopting children, etc. Bigotry is what is truly sick.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • b2ux

      He will face judgment from The Lord for not doing what's right.

      no actually you will be 1st you dont worship jesus only god youo can know him but do not worship him its in the bible try reading it sometime 2nd you do not judge or you will be judged as you will be... you have to be a member of the westboro bunch if not you think just like them .......
      clearly not a christian p.s. did you know since your so gun ho about it you worship jesus a devout jew born a jew and died a devout jew ....

      July 29, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Jeff E.

      I wish you could see how much your own judgement and condemnation of God's people is an affront to the teachings of Christ.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Bender Bending Rodriguez

      How do I know that you’re not twisting God’s words and you yourself are the Anti-Christ?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • YeahRight

      "He will face judgment from The Lord for not doing what's right. We need to stand up against the tyranny and oppression from the libs who keep trying to make the choice of being gay a good one."

      Heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience.

      The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

      July 29, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • TMC

      Wow, and under whose guidance did your rant of sewage come?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • ThaGerm

      Twisted God's words? Pot meet Kettle.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Actually read the Bible

      Your Bible is apparently missing Matthew 7:1-5 Try reading that slowly to yourself every morning; it will make you happier, more fulfilled, and closer to the Lord. Or maybe you believe Matthew was sent by Satan also...

      July 29, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Beas

      You are so right in what you say, this man will be comdeened to Hell he is one of Satan angles. It tells you in the Bible that God is against gay's no man should sleep with another man same goes with women. Hell will be crouded with all these sinners

      July 29, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Baptists are Hedonistic

      You are scary !

      July 29, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • Bob

      Your comment about the Pope being under the guidance of Satan is a lie. This is Jesus' promise (Matthew 16:18-19):

      "16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

      The Pope will always be guided by the Holy Spirit as it has been for the last 2,000+ years – It's God's Church, not a man's church.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  17. Super Catholic


    July 29, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Bender Bending Rodriguez

      I totally agree.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  18. Agnostickids

    For god so loved the world....

    That he drowned everyone on it.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • steelerguin

      Do you enjoy taking passges from books out of context?

      July 29, 2013 at 9:50 am |
      • CoquePhagClub

        Both of you kweens are lame, effeminate nancies.

        July 29, 2013 at 9:57 am |
        • Jesus the Christ

          Wow, are you jealous? You seem to be looking into a mirror.

          July 29, 2013 at 10:02 am |
        • Observer

          Grow up, child.

          July 29, 2013 at 10:03 am |
      • God

        I think he or she is doing a good job. You christians rewrite the bible on a daily basis.

        July 29, 2013 at 9:58 am |
      • Anon

        What's out of context? According to the big book of Mediterranean myths your desert god is a genocidal tyrant.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:01 am |
      • Thinker...

        I fail to see how that was out of context. That was my reading of the flood storey. God loved his creation, but one of his creations (humans) had become 'evil' and thus he saved the family of the one 'good' man left and 2 of every animal on a wodden boat (its bigger on the inside) and then killed every other living thing on earth. Except the fish. He must have protected the salt water fish from the sudden addition of that much fresh water though. And the massive pH change that would have caused.

        Personally, I would think that being 'all-powerful' it would be easier to just erase the 'evil' men rather than drown the whole world while protecting the various types of sea creatures.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • PrayAwayTheGay

      No, he drowned everyone but his 2 favorite people .. and those 2 people managed to put 2 of every animal (including food and fresh water for each of them - for 40 days) on a big boat and sail around for a bit. Makes perfect sense.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:59 am |
      • deb

        LOL – did you read what you wrote??? I'm embarrassed for you. You sound like a nutcase. The bible is book written many, many years ago full of "stories".

        July 29, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • lilyq

      No, he left Noah and his family.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:00 am |
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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.