“We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity,” he said.
What Pope Francis has said about same-sex marriage and civil unions in the past
At least 67 countries, the majority in Africa or the Middle East, have national laws against same-sex relations, while at least nine others criminalize gender expression against transgender or other people, Human Rights Watch says. .
The pope is due to visit South Sudan – one of the countries that criminalizes homosexuality – from February 3-5.
In the United States, meanwhile, more than a dozen states still have anti-sodomy laws, even though the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional in 2003, according to the Associated Press.
While Francis criticized the criminalization of homosexuality, he made it clear that he believed homosexuality to be a sin. “Let us distinguish between a sin and a crime,” the pope said.
The British Colonial Origins of Anti-Gay Laws
The church teaches that homosexual acts are “inherently messy”, and although Francis has tried to use a more welcoming tone towards LGBT Catholics – including saying, “Who am I to judge?” – he did not want to change the official position of the church.
This left some of his followers wishing for more. In 2021, the Vatican’s doctrinal body declared that Catholic priests could not bless same-sex marriages. This decree, signed by Francis, came even after he was quoted in a documentary as advocating for civil union laws.
The question of how the church addresses LGBT issues could reach a boiling point later this year at a special church-wide assembly that Francis convenes in October that involves bringing together different perspectives. Conservatives fear the consultation will undermine the church’s longstanding moral positions.
A preparatory Vatican document cited calls from parts of the Church to become more welcoming to those who “feel a tension between Church membership and their own romantic relationships.”