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Pope Francis says homosexuality is not a crime in “historic” statement

Pope Francis greets pilgrims during his weekly general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on September 10, 2014.
Photo: Shutterstock

Pope Francis called laws criminalizing homosexuality “unjust.” In a new interview with The Associated Press published on Tuesday, Francis insisted that God loves all his children just as they are and called on Catholic bishops to welcome LGBTQ+ people into the church.

“Being homosexual isn’t a crime. It’s not a crime. Yes, it’s a sin,” the Pope said, adding that it’s important to distinguish between the two concepts.

As the AP reports, about 67 countries have laws on the books criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity, with 11 imposing the death penalty. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled anti-sodomy laws in the U.S. unconstitutional, but more than a dozen states still have such laws on the books. Experts say that these laws contribute to the stigmatization of LGBTQ+ people, even when they are not enforced.

Earlier this week, Mohamed Bazoum, the president of Niger, detailed his plans to outlaw gay sex and impose the death penalty on married same-sex couples in his country, where same-sex intimacy is currently legal. Francis’s comments on anti-LGBTQ+ laws come ahead of his trip to Africa.

In his interview with the AP, Francis acknowledged that Catholic bishops in certain parts of the world support anti-LGBTQ+ laws as consistent with Vatican teaching. “These bishops have to have a process of conversion,” he said. He urged bishops to apply “tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us.”

Francis also said that the Catholic Church should work to end laws criminalizing homosexuality. “It must do this. It must do this,” he repeated.

“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,” Francis said.

In response to the Pope’s comments, GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis released a statement calling Francis’s words, which represent the first time a pope has addressed the issue, “historic.”

“Pope Francis denounced laws in nearly 70 countries that criminalize LGBTQ people and called on the Roman Catholic Church to take an active role in repealing those laws. His historic statement should send a message to world leaders and millions of Catholics around the world: LGBTQ people deserve to live in a world without violence and condemnation, and more kindness and understanding,” Ellis said.

“Other influential voices in faith, government, business, sports, and entertainment should similarly speak out on outdated laws that criminalize the lives and relationships of LGBTQ people and that negatively impact travel and business in these countries.”

“Today’s statements from Pope Francis are a game changer in the fight to decriminalize LGBTQ people and also illustrate the work that needs to be done with religious leaders to finally show that being LGBTQ is not a sin.”

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