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Pope criticizes anti-gay laws, says being gay is a sin but ‘not a crime’


Pope France condemned “unjust” legislation criminalizing same-sex relationships around the world, saying in an interview published Wednesday that “being gay is not a crime”.

He said the church must work to end such laws, while Catholic bishops who support them must “have a process of conversion”. Instead, the clergy should “offer tenderness, please, as God has for each of us,” the pope told the Associated Press.

“We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity,” he said.

What Pope Francis has said about same-sex marriage and civil unions in the past

At least 67 countries, the majority in Africa or the Middle East, have national laws against same-sex relationships, while at least nine others criminalize gender expression against transgender people or other people, according to Human Rights Watch.

From February 3 to 5, the pope will visit South Sudan, one of the countries that criminalizes homosexuality.

Meanwhile, in the United States, more than a dozen states still have laws against sodomy, even though the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional in 2003, according to the Associated Press.

Although Francis criticized the criminalization of homosexuality, he made it clear that he believes homosexuality is a sin. “Let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime,” the pope said.

The British Colonial Origins of Anti-Gay Laws

The Church teaches that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered”, and while Francis has tried to use a more welcoming tone towards LGBTQ Catholics, he most famously said, “Who am I to judge?” — he was unwilling to change the official position of the Church.

That has led some of his supporters to wish for more. In 2021, the Vatican’s doctrinal body said Catholic priests cannot bless same-sex marriages. That decree, signed by Francis, came even after he was quoted in a documentary as an advocate for civil union laws.

The question of how the church is approaching LGBT issues could come to a head later this year at an extraordinary churchwide meeting that Francis convenes in October, bringing together different perspectives. Conservatives fear the talks will undermine the church’s long-held moral positions.

A preliminary Vatican document quoted calls from parts of the church to be more hospitable to those who “feel a tension between belonging to the church and their own love relationships.”

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