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. Agnostickids


    Because it's a lot easier to read one book as opposed to a bunch of difficult ones.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Sean Hamilton

      Ive read thousands of books, none lead me to eternal life.

      Have you read it?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:31 am |
      • Agnostickids

        LOL! Yes, actually I have. That's why I don't believe in it.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:32 am |
        • indrct

          You most definitely have not read the Bible. A few minutes ago you said Noah had daughters...

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

          Exactly what part of it don't you believe? Perhaps you were taught incorrectly. As for Creationism, The Church has no position on it. Since it can't be proven one way or the other it is pointless to argue, unless you just want to waste time and/or bandwidth.
          All The Church will say on the subject is that if there was a Big Bang (very likely), then God " lit the match" that set it off. What process or processes He used to do it is something you will have to ask Him as no one else knows it.

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

      Guessing you never read the Bible (which is a collection of over 66 books). Your "Science" books
      1) aren't fact, are derived from Philosophy, are a collection of ideas, not facts
      2) never has proven or disproven the existence of God
      3) are built from research sponsored by governments. ie the "Scientists" research mostly just shows was the government wants them to discover. (funding)

      July 29, 2013 at 10:33 am |
      • IrishinToronto

        I KNEW gravity was just a government plot! I must float off now...

        July 29, 2013 at 10:37 am |
        • SouthernCelt

          Gravity. Not just a good idea, it is the Law! 🙂

          July 29, 2013 at 11:02 am |
      • SouthernCelt

        The number of books in The Bible depends on whether or not you accept the reasons Martin Luther deleted 7 and changed the wording in two more or just accept the opinion of all Church leaders for 1500 years before Luther was born. The original version of The Bible has 73 books. The Protestant version only has 66. Ever investigate why or are you just comfortable with what your parents taught you? As for Science, the Vatican has a very well respected Science department and the founders of most physical sciences were founded by Catholics.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  2. Brad

    Not exactly a change in the stance, people

    July 29, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  3. Agnostickids

    Their infants shall be dashed in pieces and their women with child shall be ripped in pieces. Hosea 13:16

    Wow! What a loving god!!!

    July 29, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • Jeff E.

      What are you afraid of? Losing your MO? A Pope speaks of forgiveness and this is the best you can do? Make an effort to find your own path instead of wasting so much time trying to tell others theirs is wrong.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:31 am |
      • Agnostickids

        I'm not telling you or anyone else that your path is wrong...is that what you're worried about? I'm simply pointing out what your own scriptures say.

        Does that make you doubt?

        July 29, 2013 at 10:32 am |
        • Jeff E.

          I'm not a Christian, I'm agnostic but I used to be a militant atheist like yourself and I honestly have empathy for you. I never knew it then but criticizing the beliefs of others while holding no real faith of my own was choosing the miserable path of least resistance... it's amazingly easy to find faults with the words and the beliefs of others but are you willing to seek and stand up for your own?

          July 29, 2013 at 10:36 am |
        • Jesus the Christ

          @ Jeff...I think Agnostickids is agnostic...there's the username and all...

          Just because someone speaks against christianity...it doesn't make them an atheist, or a militant anything...

          July 29, 2013 at 10:43 am |
        • Lone

          Aww, someone is trolling with cherry picked verses, and without citation or context. How ironic and dull.

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

          Nice try JTC but AK's off-topic verse dropping is plainly over your head. The potential of being agnostic has nothing to do with their cheeseball antagonism.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Pedrp

      Actually, it says this:

      Death to Samaria, that has provoked her God’s anger! Death at the sword’s point; children dashed headlong, ripped open the womb!

      Come back, Israel, to the Lord thy God; it is sin that has caused thy overthrow. 3 Come back, men of Israel, with a plea ready on your lips: Pardon all our guilt, and take the best we have in return;[1] the praises we utter shall be our victims now. 4 No longer we will find refuge in Assyrian help, mount our men on horses from Egypt;[2] no longer will we give the name of gods to the things our own hands have made; thou art the friend of the friendless who trust in thee.

      I will bring healing to their crushed spirits;[3] in free mercy I will give them back my love; my vengeance has passed them by. 6 I will be morning dew, to make Israel grow as the lilies grow, strike roots deep as the forest of Lebanon. 7 Those branches shall spread, it shall become fair as the olive, fragrant as Lebanon cedar. 8 None that dwells under the protection of that name but shall come back to me; corn shall be theirs in plenty, and they will grow like one of their own vineyards, famed as the vintage of Lebanon itself. 9 The false gods of Ephraim are forgotten; mine to answer his prayer and tend him, ever-green as a fir-tree; from me all thy increase comes. 10 All this the wise discern, the thoughtful understand; straight paths the Lord has shewn us for his friends to walk in; who leaves them shall stumble to his ruin.

      Which certatinly sounds like a God loving his chosen people.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • Nannalow

      You know nothing of the verse that you speak of. This is a prophetic book – God is not advocating for the harming of children, he is saying that these people have forsaken him and his teachings and are going to be left to thier own devices, which includes being overtaken by the enemy who will destroy them. People love to complain about God, but it is not he that causes pain and suffering, but is the absence of him that does. He says that he will show compassion on those he wants to show compassion on, and not show compassion on those who he does not want to show compassion on. It is his right as Lord. You cannot take one verse out of a small part of one chapter of the bible and say "Ha! See your God is bad!". That is neither a fair nor logical argument.

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

      Ever read the New Testament, or are you just obsessed with the history of the Jewish people's relationship with God? Ever wonder why He sent His Son to straighten out the mess they made of it?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  4. chris

    "who am i to judge?"

    if only the christian conservatives/evangelicals could understand that. i tell you, it's the assumption that they hold sway or know what's in a supreme-beings mind (makes me sick how they attach such human irrationalizations to god). i believe in god, not man to save my soul...

    July 29, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • littlepeaks

      If only you'd actually read the Bible. Maybe you would understand.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  5. AgnosticKids

    Nothing personal, but each and every one of you are worthless idiots.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • MikeinAZ

      Don't give us atheists a bad name by acting like a Christian.

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


    Complaining that paying for birth control "goes against your religious beliefs" while expecting non-christian tax payers to pay for your churches.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Valerie

      Oh really? How exactly do non-Christians pay for churches? Enlighten us.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:27 am |
      • Capt Nemo

        Oh, please, that one isn't hard at all.: churches pay no taxes, so the rest of us are subsidising your religion, and many tax-exempted religions practice selective bigotry.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  7. thepopehas spoken

    Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a
    defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does
    my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

    and, erm, doesn't Pope Francis wear glasses?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Jeff E.

      Boringly predictable... people who apparently can't or won't find their own path pull out Old Testament lines when they want to blindly bash a religion.

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

      It's obvious your vision is flawed if you are twisting the Bible to fit your own view of things, which you are. Hypocrite.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Postage

      Let the Bible speak for itself... Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26, 27
      It's pretty clear unless you want to make your own standards up.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  8. The Contentious Otter

    I'm a lapsed Catholic and haven't been to mass in years, but I'm liking this new Pope so well that I'm seriously considering attending Mass again.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  9. hdrkid

    Michael Jackson should have become a Catholic Priest.

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

      why is that? He's Jehovah Witness.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:25 am |
      • MikeinAZ

        Jack, I think the point was that MJ has something in common with priests. They both like little boys.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  10. George chuwang

    Let God deal with him not him. . . So he's right

    July 29, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  11. Norm

    I think this Pope is trying to put a new face on the Catholic church, but it's too little, too late.
    People just aren't buying into it anymore.
    Parents from the 50's and 60's failed to instill the fear of God into their children who are now parents and have turned their back on organized religion as well.
    The church isn't necessary anymore.
    Humans have become enlightened to the spiritualism inside themselves and no longer need the ancient traditions.

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

      Tell that to three (some say it was four) million young people sleeping overnight on the beach of Copacabana in order to listen to the Pope next morning. And they were just a tiny sample of the over one billion Catholics around the world.

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

        There are always that many people on the beach at Copacabana

        July 29, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Truth

      When you see Lucifer in the lake of fire, be sure to enlighten him also. He appears to be trapped in the same line of thought apparently...

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

        If I believe in Luciferianism, will I be alright?

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

          If you like it HOT for eternity...

          July 29, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  12. naiemahmad

    It appears Christendom is doomed, it is grasping for straws to keep it afloat, it is sinking, it has sunk!
    When some one is sick he prays to get better, the main reason the Pope is allowing Gays &lesbians
    into the fold is the same reason politicians do to get there vote, however in the Churches case, the Church
    is looking at the bottom dollar which at the end of the day on Sundays has decreased, so Gay & Lesbians money is now ok.
    DId I mention most Christians have turned to Atheism, and more will follow..as the news hits the street!

    July 29, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • bigdan

      No, he is the first pope to actually embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ without being influenced by the politics. I say good on him.

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

      Your silly. 😀

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

      What you fail to understand is all he said was that it was not for him to judge. He is exactly right. It is solely up to God to judge. Too many Christians forget that and think they have a right to judge people and decide whether or not they are eligible to be a Christian or to walk with God. It is not what the Pope said that is part of the problem. It is people like you who are part of the problem with Christianity. You could learn something from the Pope.

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

      I know you wont like to hear this, but your statement goes both ways friend. There may be some people that leave but, many come back and many people like your self find God sooner or later too.
      Win some, lose some.
      God Bless

      July 29, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • GonzoG

      Well, there are other religions that spread hate. You can join one of them or start your own.

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

      Let the Bible speak for itself, one from the old testament and one from the new testament: Leviticus 18:22 , Romans 1:26, 27 .

      July 29, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  13. kd

    Francis is a hypocrite.


    July 29, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  14. Agnostickids

    Do you HONESTLY think that God would own a gun and be a republican?????

    July 29, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Dar

      I don't think that God would be affiliated with any political party. ALL political parties are far from good for everybody like God would be.
      AND why would God need a gun any way??

      July 29, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Donald

      Do you think God would be for abortion and be a Democrat as well? God is neither a Republican or a Democrat. In fact, he's the almighty God who has come to be our savior. Don't put God in either party because he's neither!

      July 29, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  15. ubergoober

    This pope is dope!

    July 29, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  16. Agnostickids

    The Bible: Slavery good, Gays bad, Snakes talk....

    July 29, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • catie

      ha! great response

      July 29, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Eric S.

      Can you point out one place in the Bible where slavery is described as good?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:34 am |
      • Capt Nemo

        Your ignorance is palpable.

        Ephesians 6:5 – Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.

        Colossians 3:22 – Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

        And many many more...

        July 29, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
  17. garwin1

    Gay folks also have money to give the church.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  18. Bender Bending Rodriguez

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

    July 29, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  19. Rewind

    Pope Frances is so down-to-earth! He knows that no man is perfect, including himself.

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

      Just because we are not perfect does not mean we cannot have moral standards to which people are held accountable and yes, even judged.

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

        I'm pretty sure the Bible suggests the exact opposite of what you just said.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:28 am |
      • RJW

        It's not up to you to judge. That is what the Pope is teaching. You should listen.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:30 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.