- Previous Pope had signed document saying gay men should not be priests
- But Pope Francis says gay clergymen should be forgiven and sins forgotten
- Comments came as he returned from wildly successful tour of Brazil
The pope has said that he 'will not judge' gay priests.
Speaking to reporters on a flight back from his week-long visit to sexually permissive Brazil, Pope Francis said he ‘would not stand in judgment’ of gays in the Vatican and that they should not be discriminated against.
The pontiff's remarks about gays mark a more conciliatory approach than his predecessor. Benedict signed a document in 2005 saying that men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.
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Conciliatory: Pope Francis during a press conference on the flight back to Italy after departure from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil where he signalled a dramatic turnaround in the Catholic church's approach to gay priests
A modern Pope? The Pope was funny and candid during a news conference that lasted almost an hour and a half, during which he did not attempt to dodge any difficult questions fielded by the reporters present
In a remarkably open press conference, Francis said that people should not be persecuted for their sexual orientation.
He said: ‘I am not going to judge. If a person is gay and of good will and seeks the Lord who am I to judge?’
‘The catechism tells us not to discriminate or marginalise against these people. They are our brothers.’
Francis was answering a question about a rumoured gay lobby in the Holy See hierarchy.
He said that gay ‘tendencies’ were not the problem for the church. The real problem was the lobbies, whether they are gay, the political or Masonic', he said.
Accepting: His statements marked a dramatic turnaround from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests
The remarks come as the gay marriage debate rages around the world.
Despite the apparent softening, Francis adamantly opposes same sex marriage.
In an encyclical sent out to every parish in the Catholic world last month he wrote: The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family,' Pope Francis says. 'I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage.
'This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God's own love, and of the acknowledge and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh and are enabled to give birth to a new life.'
Ministering to the faithful: Pope Francis is seen on a large screen as he celebrates the World Youth Day's concluding Mass on Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, yesterday
Massive: More than three million people were estimated to have gathered for the farewell Mass
A woman holds rosary beads and an image of the Virgin at the Copacabana mass: Pope Francis also today suggested that he wanted a greater role for women in the Church, but he insisted they could not be priests
All this devotion is tiring: Sun worshippers top up their tan or nap as devout Catholics listen intently
The Pope also suggested that he wanted a greater role for women in the Church, but insisted they could not be priests. ‘That door is closed,’ he said.
But he did indicate that a solution on giving communion to the divorced is close and would be resolved in the next Synod.
The Pope arrived back in Rome on Monday after a week-long tour of Brazil - his first trip abroad as pontiff - which climaxed with a gathering of three million people on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach.