Pope Francis says he will not judge priests for being gay
'If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?' says pontiff.
Pope Francis reached out to gay people on Monday, saying he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation, in a remarkably open and wide-ranging news conference as he returned from his first foreign trip.
"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Francis asked.
His predecessor, Benedict XVI, signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests. Francis was much more conciliatory, saying gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.
Francis's remarks came during a plane journey back to the Vatican from his first foreign trip, to Brazil. He was funny and candid during a news conference that lasted almost an hour and a half.
He did not dodge a single question, even thanking the journalist who raised allegations reported by an Italian news magazine that one of his trusted monsignors was involved in a scandalous gay tryst a decade ago. He said he had investigated and found nothing to back up the allegations.
Francis was asked about Italian media reports suggesting that a group within the church tried to blackmail fellow church officials with evidence of their homosexual activities. Italian media reported this year that the allegations contributed to Benedict's decision to resign.
While stressing Catholic social teaching that calls for gay people to be treated with dignity and not be marginalised, Francis said it was something else entirely to conspire to use private information for blackmail or to exert pressure.