Pope Francis believes that it’s time for Catholics to apologize to the LGBT community.
Returning from a trip to Armenia, the Pope spoke to the press aboard the papal plane about the recent attack on Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Forty-nine people were killed at the Florida gay bar. Francis was asked by reporters about Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s recent statement on the tragedy, in which he blamed the Roman Catholic Church for being “very negative about gay people” throughout its history.
The Pope agreed, adding that the Vatican should also seek forgiveness for its failure on women’s rights, child labor, and gun control.
“I believe that the church not only should apologize to the person who is gay whom it has offended,” he said, “but has to apologize to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labor; it has to ask forgiveness for having blessed many weapons.”
"The church must ask forgiveness for not behaving many times — when I say the church, I mean Christians!” he added. “The church is holy, we are sinners!"
Pope Francis said he is aware that many cultures and religions find expressions of homosexuality “offensive,” but having a “different mentality” should not be a justification for harm or ill will toward the LGBT community. “I repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that they must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected and accompanied pastorally,” he said.
Francis also reiterated his famous “who am I to judge?” remark from 2013, when he first addressed the topic of gay rights back in 2013. “The problem isn't [homosexual] orientation,” he said. “We must be like brothers and sisters.”
“The questions is: If a person who has that condition, who has good will, and who looks for God, who are we to judge?” the pope added Sunday.
Rev. Federico Lombardi, a spokesperson for the Vatican, later clarified that the phrase “that condition” was in reference to “a person in that situation,” not a physical ailment or an affliction. “In Italian, the word condition can also mean situation,” according to CNN.
Rev. James Martin, who serves an editor at large for America magazine, told the news channel that the pope’s statement is “a groundbreaking moment” for LGBT people, who have been traditionally shunned by the Catholic Church, where same-sex relations are often condemned and classified as a “sin.”
“While St. John Paul II apologized to several groups in 2000 — the Jewish people, indigenous peoples, immigrants and women, among them — no pope has ever come close to apologizing to the LGBT community,” said the Jesuit priest.
Martin added that the church is “correct” in doing so: “No group feels more marginalized in the church today than LGBT people.”
Pope Francis, who has advocated for the acceptance of divorced Catholics, is hailed by many as the most progressive leader in the Vatican’s history. He has repeatedly stressed the “wholeness and dignity” of LGBT people in his remarks, telling Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli in 2016 that “God loves all his creatures.”