Pope Francis has apparently spoken out in defence of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, hurting the hopes of those who see him as a liberal driving force in the Catholic Church.
Last month the Pope warned Catholics not to fear change following an angry synod backlash against a softening of the Church’s stance towards homosexuality.
But in his address at the opening of a three-day conference on traditional marriage hosted at the Vatican yesterday, Francis called family “an anthropological fact… that cannot be qualified based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history”.
The Humanum conference invites people of different religions to come together and celebrate “complementarity between man and woman in marriage” – the idea that men and women have different but complementary roles that they say are essential to building a strong family.
And though he did not refer to gay unions directly, the Pope said: “It is fitting that you have gathered here to explore the complementarity of man and woman. This complementarity is at the root of marriage and family.”
In pictures: 'The many popes of Pope Francis'
In pictures: 'The many popes of Pope Francis'
1/12 The Pro-Gay Pope
In just a year, Pope Francis has managed to change the public perception of the Catholic Church, and the stance it takes on civil issues, like gay rights. Despite originally protesting the legalisation of gay marriage in his native Argentina some years ago, he told reporters this year: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?”
2/12 The Rebel Pope
No other Pope has urged a shake-up of the Catholic Church quite like Pope Francis, a true rebel of the dioceses. Who, incidentally, used to be a night club bouncer.
3/12 The Graffiti Pope
Pope Francis become... SUPER POPE in this Vatican-approved street art. But was he happy with the reference to the fictional DC comic character?"To depict the pope as a sort of superman, a sort of star, seems offensive to me. The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps tranquilly and has friends like everyone else, a normal person," he said. So, that's a no, then.
4/12 The Biker Pope
Yes, the Pope used to own a Harley Davidson. And yes, he auctioned it off this year and donated the proceeds to a charity that feeds the hungry in Rome. Very Papal.
5/12 The ‘Blue’ Pope
Dropping the 'F' bomb during Sunday service? Classic Pope Francis. Sadly, down to a Spanish-speaking slip of the Italian language rather than pure bad-assery.
6/12 The ‘Because I’m Worth It’ Pope
That awkward moment when your Papal hat blows off, forcing your barnet into Sesame Street-like spikes. Pope Francis has been there.
7/12 The Chocolate Pope
Imagine the Pope's delight (horror?) when he was presented with a giant chocolate replica of himself outside the Vatican by by students on a chocolatier course at the Accademia of Maestri Cioccolatieri, near Venice.
8/12 The Rock Star pope
The one and only religious leader ever to grace the cover of Rolling Stone magazine? Introducing... Pope Francis.
9/12 The People’s Pope
His U-turn attitude towards sexuality won him Time magazine's coveted Person of the Year accolade, and the cover of gay rights magazine The Advocate.
10/12 The Merchandise Pope
Thongs, mugs, onesies, earrings and even a baby mobile adorned with decapitated Pope heads, the 'Francis Effect' has seen sales of Papal merchandise soar by 200% over the last year.
11/12 The Fashion Pope
The only Pope, as far as we're aware, to be compared to fashion royalty (Karl Lagerfeld. Yes way.) and win Esquire's Most Stylish Man of 2013 award, too.
12/12 The Modern Pope
Let it be said, Pope Francis knows a thing or two about social media. He might be a way off 'doing a Dalai' and opting for Instagram, but he's not above posing for the odd 'Selfie' on Twitter.
Francis said: “Children have the right to grow up in a family with a father and mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity.
“Today marriage and the family are in crisis,” he continued. “We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment.
“The revolution in mores and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”
Pope Francis's comments were interpreted by those in the audience as a declaration in support of traditional marriage. Russell Moore of the US's Southern Baptist Convention said: “Pope Francis made clear that male/female complementarity is essential to marriage and cannot be revised by contemporary ideologies.”
LGBT activists reacted similarly to the speech, with the New Civil Rights Movement's David Badash suggesting it “included many veiled attacks on same-sex marriage”.
Zack Ford, the editor of ThinkProgress, tweeted: “I can't hear about how men and women are 'complementary' without hearing 'gay sex is icky'.”
He added: “Dear Humanum, gay people exist, and we are complementary with the same gender. Just ask us! We'll tell you all about it.”
Gay rights activist and father Jeremy Hooper wrote: “People keep telling me that this Pope is new and different and more accepting. Only thing? Just this morning, at the big marriage and family conference currently underway in Rome, he gave a whole speech about marriage being only one man and one woman and how his peeps need to resist any other form.”
He later tweeted a picture of his daughter, adding: “As Humanum attacks my family, I celebrate the joy of parenting. Of life. Of love.”
In March, Cardinal Timothy Dolan reportedly claimed that the pontiff had paved the way for support of civil partnerships at some point in the future, saying it was time the Church studied same-sex unions “rather than condemning them”.
But in October the Vatican was forced to backtrack on liberal new guidelines of openness toward gay people by the intransigence of a majority of bishops.Reuse content