Pope Francis has publicly endorsed same-sex civil unions for the first time.
The pope was being interviewed for a feature-length documentary that made its premiere at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday.
While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had not previously spoken publicly in favour of civil unions as pope.
“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family,” the pontiff said in one of his sit-down interviews for the film, called Francesco.
“They are children of God. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it.
“What we have to have is a civil union law, that way they are legally covered.”
Catholic church teaching holds that gay people must be treated with dignity and respect but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered”.
A 2003 document from the Vatican’s doctrine office stated that the church’s respect for homosexual people “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions”.
That document was signed by the then-prefect of the office, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI and Francis’ predecessor.
A spokesperson for United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres, who is a devout Catholic, described the pope’s remarks as “a very positive move”.
“The secretary-general has spoken out very forcefully against homophobia in favor of LGBTQ rights, that people should never be persecuted or discriminated against just for who they love,” Stephane Dujarric said.
One of the other people who feature in Francesco is Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean survivor of clergy sexual abuse.
The pope is said to have made clear his acceptance of homosexuality when the pair met in May 2018.
“Juan Carlos, that you are gay does not matter. God made you like that and loves you like this and I don’t care. The pope loves you like this. You have to be happy with who you are,” Francis reportedly told Mr Cruz.
In the film, the pope speaks on topics including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality.
Additional reporting by agencies
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