No, Pope Francis isn't changing the Catholic Church's stance on same-sex marriage.
While the pope has often used a conciliatory tone toward LGBT people, most observers recognize he isn't about to change any policies -- something driven home by his sermon Sunday in Rome, in which he asserted that children are better off with heterosexual parents.
Gender differences are key to successful marriages and parenting, the pope told an audience of about 25,000, one day after Rome's gay pride parade, Religion News Service reports. Such diversity provides "a great richness" in marriage, "a diversity which becomes complementary, but also reciprocal," he said. "It binds [heterosexual couples], one to the other."
On parenting, he said, "Children mature seeing their father and mother like this; their identity matures being confronted with the love their father and mother have, confronted with this difference."
The pope's sermon came as Italian lawmakers prepare to consider legislation that would establish civil partnerships for same-sex couples, although marriage and adoption rights "remain off the table," Religion News Service notes.
Notably, the pope's claims that heterosexual marriage is the best option for child-rearing go against "overwhelming" scientific data that indicates that children raised by same-sex parents are not negatively affected by their parents' relationship, and in fact "experience 'no difference' on a range of social and behavioral outcomes compared to children of heterosexual or single parents."
In a more LGBT-friendly move, however, Pope Francis has agreed to his first meeting with a married gay activist, BuzzFeed reports. Simon Cazal, executive director of the Paraguayan LGBT rights group SomosGay, will be part of a group of civil society leaders meeting with the pope in Asuncion, Paraguay's capital city, July 11.
Cazal received the invitation from the Paraguayan bishops' conference, which cited his group's impact on society. It came as a surprise; he had not asked to be included in the meeting, he told BuzzFeed.
SomosGay recently launched a campaign calling on the Catholic Church to "abandon the positions of intolerance and insults dehumanizing LGBT people." Cazal said he hopes the pope will address the issue of antigay violence, noting that LGBT activists were subjected to brutal treatment by police during a protest last year in conjunction with the Organization of American States' annual meeting. The incident "went completely unnoticed and unrecognized by the church here," Cazal told BuzzFeed.
Cazal married fellow SomosGay activist Sergio Lopez in Argentina in 2012, but their marriage is not recognized in Paraguay, which has few civil rights protections for LGBT people.