Comments made by Pope Francis that he will not judge priests for their sexual orientation do not change Catholic teaching, but will help end the witch hunt against homosexuals, says Damian Thompson. Read more...
In a broad-ranging 80-minute conversation with journalists on the plane bringing him back from a week-long visit to Brazil, the Pope defended gays from discrimination, but also referred to the Catholic Church's universal Catechism, which says that while homosexual orientation is not sinful, homosexual acts are.
"If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?" the pope said.
"The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalized because of this (orientation) but that they must be integrated into society," he said, speaking in Italian.
The Telegraph's Damian Thompson says that the Pope's comments are "very significant."
"They don't change Catholic teaching but they do alter the atmosphere very much. It seems that there will be no longer a witch-hunt to stop celibate gay men from entering seminaries, which had been the situation.
"I think gay Catholics will be feeling a lot more relaxed even though, I must emphasise, the Church still teaches that homosexual acts are wrong."
The Pope arrived back in Rome on Monday after a triumphant week-long tour of Brazil which climaxed with a huge gathering on Rio de Janeiro's famed Copacabana beach for a world Catholic youth festival which organisers estimated to have attracted more than 3 million people.
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