Pope Francis said God loves and accompanies people with same-sex attraction.
“People with homosexual tendencies are children of God. God loves them. God accompanies them,” the pope said during an in-flight press conference on his return from Juba, South Sudan, on February 5.
When asked by a journalist what the pope would say to families in Congo and South Sudan who reject their children because they are gay, the pope responded that the catechism teaches that people with same-sex attraction should not be marginalized.
“To condemn someone like this is a sin. Criminalizing people with homosexual tendencies is an injustice,” he added.
In a first for a papal trip, Pope Francis was joined for the in-flight press conference by two other Christian leaders: his Anglican counterpart, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields, who also took part in the “ecumenical pilgrimage of peace” in South Sudan Feb. 3-5.
Together the three Christian leaders answered questions and spoke about South Sudan’s peace process, the war in Ukraine, and mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Welby said that he “wholeheartedly agreed” with what Pope Francis said about the Congo that it is “not the playground of great powers.”
Greenshields added that in South Sudan’s peace process “actions speak louder than words.”
Pope Francis alone answered a question about tensions in the Catholic Church after the death of his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
“I think Benedict’s death was instrumentalized by people who want to serve their own interests,” Francis said.
People who instrumentalize such a good and holy person, Francis added, are partisans and unethical.
Looking ahead at potential upcoming papal trips, Pope Francis said that he wants to go to India next year.
The 86-year-old pope confirmed that he also plans to travel to Marseille, France, in September to participate in a meeting of Mediterranean bishops and added that “there is a possibility from Marseille to fly to Mongolia.”
In his response to the question about the acceptance of people with same-sex attractions, Pope Francis noted that he has spoken on the topic multiple times during in-flight press conferences.
The pope reiterated what he said on his return flight from Brazil in 2013: “If a person with homosexual tendencies is a believer, seeks God, who am I to judge him? This is what I said on that trip.”
He added that during an in-flight press conference returning from Ireland in 2018 he said that parents should not kick out children with this orientation out of their homes.
Pope Francis noted that he recently spoke about the criminalization of homosexuality in an interview with the Associated Press and emphasized again that it is unjust.
“I want to say, I wish I had spoken as elegantly and clearly as the pope. I entirely agree with every word he said there,” Welby said.
“Over the next four days in the General Synod of the Church of England, this is our main topic of discussion, and I shall certainly quote the Holy Father,” he added.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, people with homosexual tendencies should be treated with respect, and unjust discrimination against them should be avoided, while “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and “under no circumstances can they be approved.”