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Pope Francis: LGBTQ+ People Welcome But Have to Obey Church Rules

Pope Francis: LGBTQ+ People Welcome But Have to Obey Church Rules

Pope Francis

"There are laws that regulate life inside the church," the pope said after giving an inclusive message at the World Youth Day gathering.

Pope Francis says everyone is welcome in the Roman Catholic Church, including LGBTQ+ people, but they have to follow the rules.

The pope’s remarks came in a press conference aboard his plane as he was returning from the church’s World Youth Day gathering in Lisbon, and he had made similar statements at the event.

Addressing about 500,000 World Youth Day attendees at the welcome ceremony Thursday, Francis said, “There is room for everyone in the church, and whenever there is not, then, please, we must make room, including for those who make mistakes, who fall or struggle,” according to theNational Catholic Reporter.

“The Lord does not point a finger but opens wide his arms: Jesus showed us this on the cross,” he added. “He does not close the door but invites us to enter; he does not keep us at a distance but welcomes us.”

On the plane, a reporter asked the pope if this attitude was inconsistent with its exclusionary policies concerning women and LGBTQ+ people, Reuters reports. Women cannot become priests, and same-sex couples cannot marry within the church. Clergy members have often denied Communion to people in same-sex relationships, and some LGBTQ+ people have been fired from Catholic schools and other church-affiliated institutions. The church considers same-sex relationships sinful, and it teaches that gender is fixed at birth.

Francis replied, “The church is open to everyone but there are laws that regulate life inside the church. … According to the legislation, they cannot partake in [some] sacraments. This does not mean that it is closed. Each person encounters God in their own way inside the church.”

During the decade since he became pope, Francis has opened some high-ranking roles to women (but definitely not the priesthood), has taken a more conciliatory tone toward LGBTQ+ people than his predecessors did, and has met privately with some LGBTQ+ Catholics and others.

He called transgender women “daughters of God” in a recently published interview with Vida Nueva,a Spanish Catholic magazine. “The first time a group of transsexuals came to the Vatican and they saw me, they came out crying, saying that I had given them a hand, a kiss … as if I had done something exceptional with them,” he said. “But they are daughters of God!”

All along, however, he has made clear that the church’s doctrine hasn’t changed. Nevertheless, he has been criticized by right-wing Catholics for going too far in LGBTQ+ acceptance (as well as by LGBTQ+ advocates and allies who point out the anti-LGBTQ+ aspects of church teaching). There was some conservative criticism of World Youth Day as being too secular, and last Thursday there was a protest at a Mass for queer Catholics in Lisbon.

About two dozen LGBTQ+ Catholics had gathered at the Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation organized by the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics and a Portuguese LGBTQ+ group, according to the Reporter. Protesters interrupted the Mass with what they called “a reparatory prayer.” They said they were speaking out against “the mortal sins” that come out of “an LGBT ideology that today exists within the Catholic Church,” Portuguese publication Visãoreports.

“Individually, we have nothing against these people,” Rafael da Silva, one of the protest’s organizers, told Visão. “The enemy is this ideology and some priests who defend it against what the Catholic Church should be and against what God’s will is.”

Police officers soon escorted the demonstrators out, and the Mass continued as planned, the Reporter notes. The police responded quickly because they had already been notified that there might be a disruption — there had been a change of venue for the event because warnings of a protest had circulated on social media.

Father James Alison, a gay British priest who helped conduct the Mass, told the Reporter he felt sorry for the protesters and that he found their message inconsistent with the pope’s. “I was terribly sorry to see these people who have been led to this terrible ideology of hatred,” he said. “They live in a weird, alienated world and did not look happy. We were principally sad for them.” The Mass, he said, was “clearly in line with the Holy Father’s message” that everyone is welcome in the church.

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