Pope Francis told reporters on Wednesday the Catholic Church is unable to bless same-sex marriages because marriage is a divine sacrament between a man and a woman. According to AP-Reuters, though, Francis added that individual nations were free to enact laws that recognize marriage equality and provide civil protections for same-sex relationships.
"I have spoken clearly about this, no?" Francis said when asked if he approved of legislation supporting marriage equality. "Marriage is a sacrament. Marriage is a sacrament. The church doesn't have the power to change sacraments. It's as our Lord established."
The 84-year-old Argentinian-born pope made the comments while returning to Rome after his first travel abroad since undergoing surgery in July. He observed if LGBTQ+ folks "want to spend their lives together, a homosexual couple, nations have the possibility civilly to support them, to give them safety with regards to inheritance and health" regardless of the church's position.
"These are laws that try to help the situation for many people of different sexual orientation," Francis explained, while cautioning against "imposing things that by nature do not function in the church."
Francis also warned against "condemning" members of the LGBTQ+ community, saying "these are our brothers and sisters, and we need to be close to them." He did not comment on nations that refuse to allow same-sex marriage because of church doctrine.
Pope Francis has previously suggested state-approved civil unions for same-sex relationships.
"What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered," the pope said in the 2020 documentary on his life, Francesco. "They're children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it.
Earlier this year, though, the Catholic Church made its disapproval of marriage equality clear in a statement that declared, "It is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (ie, outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex."
The statement opined the "positive elements" of same-sex relationships "cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator's plan."
On Wednesday, Francis added civil laws in the place of marriage equality would have some unexpected benefits.
"For example, three widows who want to partner through a law to have health care and then share the inheritance, you can do these things," the pope observed.