Pope Francis took a a huge step forward for the Catholic church Monday morning when he endorsed gay priests within the church during a candid, impromptu interview on the way home from Brazil aboard the papal plane.
The National Catholic Reporter says Francis participated in a wide-ranging interview with reporters on the plane for close to 90 minutes. While he spoke openly about many church topics, Francis' most newsworthy soundbite came when he said he would not judge gay priests and seemingly opened the door for gay acceptance within the church. "When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby," Francis told reporters. "If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … they’re our brothers." As the Associated Press points out, this is a radical change of position from Francis' predecesscor, Pope Benedict XVI, who signed a church document in 2005 banning homosexuals from serving the church.
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Francis also joked about the alleged "gay lobby" within the church. The "Velvet mafia," as they've been called. "There’s a lot of talk about the gay lobby," he said Sunday, "but I’ve never seen it on the Vatican ID card!"