Pope Francis Expresses Tolerance of Gays, Support for Women

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Stefano Rellandini / AFP / Getty Images

Pope Francis addresses a World Youth Day crowd on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach on July 25, 2013. His trip to Brazil was his first foray abroad since being elected in March

In a revealing interview published in multiple Jesuit publications, including America magazine, the Pope appeared to back away from the church’s frequent focus on issues of sexuality and reproduction.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” he said. “But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

Pope Francis also challenged Catholic attitudes about homosexuality.

“In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this,” the Pope said before restating his unprecedented July comments about not judging gay people. “Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” he continued. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

Pope Francis also advocated for a more inclusive atmosphere for women in the church.

“The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role,” he said. “The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops… We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions.”