Photo: Yonhap News
Pope Francis became the first pontiff to endorse same-sex civil unions in comments for a documentary that premiered Wednesday, sparking cheers from gay Catholics and demands for clarification from conservatives.
The support came midway through the feature-length "Francesco," which features fresh interviews with the pope, delves into issues he cares about most, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.
"Homosexual people have the right to be in a family," Francis said, "They are children of God."
"You can't kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered."
While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages, but he had never come out publicly in favor of civil unions as pope, and no pontiff before him had, either, according to a report by the AP.
The Reverend James Martin, a Jesuit who has sought to build bridges with gay Catholics, praised the comments as "a major step forward in the church's support for LGBT people."
"The pope's speaking positively about civil unions also sends a strong message to places where the church has opposed such laws," Martin said in a statement.
However, conservative Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, called for clarification, saying the pope's statement "clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the church about same-sex unions," adding they cannot support the acceptance of "objectively immoral relationships."
Director Evgeny Afineevsky, who is gay, expressed surprise after the premiere and said the pope was not trying to change doctrine but was merely expressing his belief gay people should enjoy the same rights as heterosexuals.
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