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Pope Francis Supports Same-Sex Civil Unions

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Pope Francis has become the first leader of the Roman Catholic Church to support "civil union" laws for same-sex couples.

Speaking in a film documentary, the pope called for the creation of such laws. He said that "Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God."

"What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered," Francis said. "I stood up for that."

The statements represent a break from the Church's teachings and his strongest comments yet on the issue.

The comments came in "Francesco," a documentary about his life and the social issues that concern him. The film was shown for the first time in Rome on Wednesday.

The movie examines his support for migrants and refugees, the poor, and his work on the issue of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. It also explores his ideas on the role of women in society, and the Church's relations with those who identify as LGBTQ.

While serving as Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010, the future pope opposed efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. But he supported the idea of civil unions as one way to prevent the approval of same-sex marriage in Argentina.

After being elected pope, Francis once said in 2013, "Who am I to judge?" while answering a reporter's question about homosexuals in the church. He has not publicly expressed support for civil unions until now.

The Reverend James Martin is an American clergyman who supports the Church's efforts to reach members of the gay community. He wrote on Twitter, "Pope Francis's support for same-sex civil unions is a major step forward in the church's support of LGBTQ people." Martin added that it "sends a strong signal to countries where the church has opposed such laws."

FILE - In this Saturday Dec. 6, 2008 file photo two men kiss each other outside St. Peter's Square at the Vatican during a candle-lit demonstration for gay rights.
FILE - In this Saturday Dec. 6, 2008 file photo two men kiss each other outside St. Peter's Square at the Vatican during a candle-lit demonstration for gay rights.

Filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky told Catholic News Agency that the pope talked about civil union laws during an interview for the movie. The news agency says the Vatican's press office did not answer its questions on the pope's comments.

Another person interviewed for the film is Juan Carlos Cruz. He is a survivor of clergy sexual abuse whom Francis at first discredited during a 2018 visit to Chile.

Cruz, who is gay, said they have since repaired the relationship. In one of the meetings, Cruz said Francis told him that God made Cruz gay. The filmmaker used Cruz's story to document the pope's understanding of sexual abuse and changing ideas about gay people.

In 2003, under Pope John Paul II, the Vatican said that "respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions." That statement was written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany. He became Pope Benedict XVI, the predecessor to Pope Francis.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English with information from Catholic News Agency and the Associated Press. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

couple - n. two people who are married or who have a romantic or sexual relationship

homosexual - n. a person who is sexually attracted to a person of the same sex

migrant - n. a person who goes from one place to another especially to find work

role - n. the part that someone has in a society

LGBTQ - an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning. These terms are used to describe a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

archbishop - n. the highest rank bishop of an area

gay - adj. sexually attracted to a person of the same sex

predecessor - n. a person who had a job or position before someone else

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