In an apparent softening of the Roman Catholic Church's staunch opposition to homosexuality, Pope Francis told a group of reporters Friday that it isn't his place to pass judgment on gay priests.
"If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?" said the pope Monday on a flight from Brazil to Rome.
Pope Francis also registered what appeared to be a more moderate position on how Catholic doctrine dictates gay people should be treated, reports Australia's ABC.
"The catechism of the Catholic Church says clearly that we must not marginalize these people who should be integrated into society."
The apparently sympathetic comments are a sharp departure from Francis' papal predecessor, Benedict XVI, who said in 2008 that homosexuality was as much a threat to the future of humanity as was climate change.
Francis made the statements Monday when questioned about widespread allegations that his nominee to head up the Vatican's bank, Monsignor Battista Ricca, has had several gay male lovers. Ricca has not commented on the allegations, but a Vatican spokesman called the report "not trustworthy." Vatican officials similarly disavowed widespread reports of a "gay lobby" at work inside Rome earlier this year. But in June, Pope Francis acknowledged the existence of a blackmail scheme targeting gay priests inside the Vatican while speaking at a private conference of Latin American church leaders.
But Francis' religious acceptance apparently does not extend to women. Speaking to the same collection of reporters Monday, Francis said that women should be given a larger role in the Church, but that the "door is closed" to their ordination.