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. Pedophile Hater

    And when this one dies or resigns within the next 5 years, the next one will be against it. Stop worshiping false idols\, like silly old men wearing dresses. That's actually in the bible!

    July 29, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • mark

      Catholics don't worship the Pope. He is our leader and main conduit to God. We also have an individual relationship with Jesus and God. We don't worship Mary either. She is viewed as the perfect example of being God's servant and, therefore, someone that should be regarded as a person that should be emulated. According to the BIBLE, she ascended into heaven directly due to her holiness on earth. Thank you in advance for not judging Catholics, Protestants. Recall that the vast majority of you Christian DNA is Catholic teachings/doctrine that has been around for 2000 yrs.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:28 am |
      • Eric S.

        Can you point out where in the Bible we are told Mary ascended into heaven?

        July 29, 2013 at 10:36 am |
        • Capt Nemo

          Classic example of dogma versus scripture. Mary's assumption isn't in the bible, and was made dogma by the pope in 1950.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
      • Pedophile Hater

        Anything or anyone you kneel in front of or concede your beliefs to is considered "worship." Don't fool yourself. Also, there is no biological marker for "Christian DNA." Christianity today is merely a political ploy to control feeble minds and has nothing to do with its intended precepts, like every other cult.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  2. Byrd

    Who are you to judge? You're the friggin' pope. that's who? You know – EL Supremo, god's mouthpiece of Earth. Everything you say is supposed to be the word of god and all you can answer to this one is a shrug of the shoulders and and"...eehhhh..." Well, some god you are. I'll bet that transubstantiation thing of turning wine and bread into blood and flesh is just a slight of hand ruse too. Refusing to take s a stand against known pedophiles infesting your housel like a nest of vipers and all you want to do is preside over them – as the biggest snake of them all.

    I have no use at all for a god like that. And I don't like snakes too much either.

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

      It's clear that some people like you hate Catholics as much as some Catholics like me hate this pope.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:19 am |
      • mark

        How can you possibly hate this man?

        July 29, 2013 at 10:31 am |
        • Capt Nemo

          Catholic, Christian, atheist, agnostic, or ignorant: if you've given in to hatred, you've missed the point and are lost.

          Life is about giving love and kindness, regardless of religion or dogma. If we all did that, things would be a lot better.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • jack

      I guess you don't understand what it means when Jesus says we should not judge others.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Brian Locastro

      This is the problem thinking he is a GOD, he is not, he's human and the most human Pope I have seen in Many Many years and he might bring people back and teach the important things like compassion and not hate like these other popes have been

      July 29, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Byrd

      You guys just don't get it. It's the pedophile priests that need to be identified and removed, not all gay priests. But for many out there it's always got to be all or nothing, heaven or hell, love or hate,0. and you just can't see any middle road solution to anything. The Pope should have taken a stand, just as I have, pure and simple, and he failed. As I said: Some god.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  3. FZMello

    How long can he go on before the powers-that-be decide to have him JFK-ed? Next thing you know, he'll be saying that women should have equal access to, (and insurance coverage of,) reproductive medical services that men have to Viagra!

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

      that's a horrible term jfk'd, you're a fking idiot.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:22 am |
      • Capt Nemo

        Horrible term, but accurate. JFK got in the way of the CIA, the US military and military industrial complex (he was getting us out of Viet Nam) and the political right (pushing for civil rights), and the Mob (smashing them on one hand while sleeping with Giancana's girlfriend on the other) and he got his head blown off.

        There is historical precedent for inconvenient popes being disposed of politically or by murder; go read a book.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Brian L

      I do hope your kidding about equal care for women, if not I feel bad for you

      July 29, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  4. Beelzebub

    Haters gonna hate....

    The only reason people hate gays: Women – because they can't get a man
    Men – because they are closet cases themselves.

    We hate in ourselves what we hate in others....

    July 29, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  5. Jon

    In comparison with Pope Francis, we can now see what a nasty man Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI truly was.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Cassarit

      Nasty because he tried to do something about you.
      We need Benedict XVI back.

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

        Do you REALLY think that the former Pope could change the way someone feels about who they are and who they love? If that was the case, it would have been done a long, time ago! SMMFH reading your dumbaz statement.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:21 am |
        • naiemahmad

          but as Humans you can change, and that is the main problem , to change for what God wants or to be accepted as is, like there are no rules to follow..you are the dumB AZZ

          July 29, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  6. Steampunk

    Thank you Pope... too many people in the world trying to suppress free thought.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Adam

      If you have tied your worldview to the belief that you KNOW for a fact that the Creator of the Universe wrote a book, and that that book is the most perfect book ever written, and that it shall never be usurped, then you have forfeit your ability of free thought. You have tied the anchor of dogma around your mind.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  7. Cassarit


    July 29, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  8. Jorge Washinsen

    I can see why he will be loved by all the people. A politician and a preacher have to think the same to get approval of the masses.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  9. fearful of being worthy of entering heaven?

    " I fear that being worthy of entering the gates of heaven will be a difficult task."

    It is an IMPOSSIBLE task.

    Your entry into Heaven is not via your "good works" but by faith and accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior.
    You cannot "take salvation" into your hands. You seem very confused, spouting a mix of tv dogma and pop culture Christianity.... hope you seek out real answers and guidance.

    all the best!

    July 29, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Amanda

      How come you know all about entering the gates of Heaven? Been there lately?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:19 am |
      • Bill

        The pope is a lot smarter than you and he disagrees, so I'm going to go with the pope.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:22 am |
        • deb

          What makes you think the Pope is smart or "knows" anything about God or even if God exists??? Religion is all "belief" or "faith", not FACT. I'm not saying there isn't a God, diety, Allah or "higher power" of some kind (I hope there is myself) but you "believers" don't KNOW anything for a fact. I respect your right to believe anything you want but don't put your beliefs/faith out there as FACT. I've often heard that many priests laugh at the "masses" and their blind trust in them.

          July 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
  10. Cassarit

    I wish we had Pius XII back.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Beelzebub

      Why, so he can bend you over?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Pius XII – AKA Hitler's Pope

      July 29, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  11. simba

    “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”... He is God's representative on earth; he is not God. God is the judge.
    By searching for God implies that the gay person will acknowledge his sinful ways (being gay) and seek redemption. In seeking redemption, such gay person will cease being gay. By having good will is meant that the gay person does not seek to harm the church.
    What is the big deal? The man did not say "being gay is acceptable by God".
    Sorry gay people, you are living in sin (in the eyes of all religions).

    July 29, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Beelzebub

      Sorry simba, you embarr*ss Disney by using one of their best characters as your username.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Amanda

      And who are you to judge gay people live in sin?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • erik

      LOL God loves all his children. Please rid yourself of hate and judgment.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Kira Scarantino

      Look at you assuming you know what he meant by his comments. I feel sorry for you. To say that Gays live in sin is you....JUDGING. Gays will meet God on their feet and ask forgiveness for whatever sins they've perceived themselves as having committed. You will meet God after spending your life standing all over his toes. I'd rather meet God as a Gay then as you. From what I hear that Guy has a temper.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • FiyaPowa

      In the eyes of all religions? What a bold statement. How is it that you feel you can speak for every religion?

      As far as living in sin, everyone is.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  12. Daniel

    uhh... I thought you were the Pope!
    Matthew 18:18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Beelzebub

      Well said! Gays are loved by God and the Pope now!

      July 29, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  13. Agnostickids

    I charge less than minimum wage for HJ's.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Observer

      I wouldn't pay you for your services. But, I would definitely date you.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:13 am |
      • AgnosticKids

        Mmmmmm bareback LOVE IT

        July 29, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  14. Jay David

    So the church's 2,000-year-old erroneous tradition of denying spiritual equality to women in the eyes of God will continue.
    Meet the new Pope, same as the old Pope.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  15. thepopehas spoken

    The Pope says that he is having problems while using Twitter.

    Of course he has – it becomes difficult to write big lies in only 140 characters.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  16. Devonna Nobles

    1 Corinthians 6:5
    I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?

    1 Corinthians 10:15
    I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  17. hubert39

    It's not that Gays are terrible people, it's what the gay priest do to little boys.

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

      " it's what the gay priest do to little boys."

      The fact you don't know the difference between a pedophile and a gay person shows you're uneducated.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Beelzebub

      The priests aren't gay. Educate yourself. Pedophilia is a "straight" crime. You breeders are the pedophiles.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  18. Beelzebub

    What a bunch of BIG whining babies!!!! You love the Pope until he says that it's alright to love G*YS. WOW! I mean, is love that painful to you bigots? To you haters, you closet cases???

    July 29, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  19. mydizzylife

    This made me smile! A Pope who is getting it right! LOVE ONE ANOTHER!

    July 29, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  20. MikeinAZ

    When he includes the requirement "and searches for the Lord..." he is still showing his bigotry. Atheist show good will also, yet he judges them. Glad he is at least beginning to give some ground, but why doesn't he approve gay marriage?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Daniel

      I don't think he gave any ground. Openly unrepentant Gays are just as bad as openly unrepented liars, thieves, murderers,adulterers,....

      July 29, 2013 at 10:15 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.