Pope Francis said on Sunday that Christians and the Roman Catholic Church owe apologies to gays and should seek forgiveness from them for the way they had treated them. Speaking to reporters aboard the plane taking him back to Rome from Armenia, the Pope also said the Church should ask forgiveness for the way it has treated women, for turning a blind eye to child labor and for “blessing so many weapons” in the past. He said:
“I believe that the Church not only should apologize to the person who is gay whom it has offended, but has to apologize to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labor; it has to ask forgiveness for having blessed many weapons.
“The Church must ask forgiveness for not behaving many times — when I say the Church, I mean Christians! The Church is holy, we are sinners!”
According to the Pope, the Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful but homosexual acts are, and that homosexuals should try to be chaste. Repeating the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church about respecting and not discriminating against gays, Pope Francis said that one could condemn certain behaviour.
“One can condemn, but not for theological reasons, but for reasons of political behavior…. Certain manifestations are a bit too offensive for others, no?
“But these are things that have nothing to do with the problem. The problem is a person that has a condition, that has good will and who seeks God, who are we to judge? And we must accompany them well.”
Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large of America magazine, called the Pope’s apology to gays and lesbians “a groundbreaking moment”.
He said that while St. John Paul II apologized to several groups in 2000 — the Jewish people, indigenous peoples, immigrants and women, among them, no pope has ever come close to apologizing to the LGBT community.
“And the Pope is correct of course. First, because forgiveness is an essential part of the Christian life. And second, because no group feels more marginalized in the church today than LGBT people.”
Pope Francis has been hailed by many in the gay community for being the most merciful pope toward them in recent history and conservative Catholics have criticized him for making comments they say are ambiguous about sexual morality.