Argentine-born Pope Francis said that he wouldn’t judge priests for their sexual orientation at press conference held as he was returning to the Vatican from Brazil.
“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge them?” said the pontiff to members of the media accompanying him onboard the papal flight earlier today. “We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society,” he added.
Francis also advocated for an increased role for women within the Church beyond limiting them to “altar girls or the president of a charity” though he rejected the notion of allowing female priests.
The Pope’s comments might not represent a change in Vatican policy on gays or women, but for some analysts his words are a major shift in tone compared to his predecessors.
"For so long the rhetoric coming out of the Vatican -- about gay and lesbian people and same sex marriage -- has been horrifically damaging. For the first time we're seeing a pope who says: 'Who am I to judge,'" Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity USA, a group that advocates for gay Catholics, to ABC News.
Meanwhile, Italy’s first openly gay governor, Nichi Vendola, told the Associated Press “I believe that if politics had one-millionth of the capacity to ... listen that the pope does, it would be better able to help people who suffer.”
The Pope’s remarks also tied into one of the major themes he discussed during his six-day-long visit to Brazil: the need for Church officials to be more open to those who are socially and economically marginalized. This theme was especially emphasized at a mass held in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday:
"Today, we need a Church capable of walking at people's side, of doing more than simply listening to them," he said.
"At times we lose people because they don't understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people," he said…
"We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel," he said in the sermon of a Mass in Rio's cathedral.
Since his election in March as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, Francis has been prodding priests, nuns and bishops to think less about their careers in the Church and listen more to the cries of those who are hungry to fill both material and spiritual needs.
"It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door and meet the people!" he said.The Pope visited Brazil as part of the Catholic World Youth Day festivities, which included a Sunday mass on Copacabana beach attended by an estimated three million worshippers and visits to a local favela and a drug rehabilitation clinic.
Video Source– YouTube via euronews
Online Sources - The Guardian; ABC News; Washington Post; BBC News; NBC News