AYMAN HENNA/AFP via Getty Pope Francis
In a new interview, Pope Francis spoke out against the criminalization of homosexuality and asked Catholic bishops who support anti-gay laws to welcome the LGBTQ+ community into their churches.
While speaking to the Associated Press this week, the pontiff, 86, called laws that criminalize homosexuality "unfair" and said, "being homosexual isn't a crime."
"We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are," Francis told the AP in Vatican City.
According to Human Rights Watch, at least 67 countries have national laws that criminalize same-sex relations between adults. Another nine countries have national laws criminalizing forms of gender expression aimed at transgender and gender nonconforming people.
Francis admitted there were Catholic bishops that support laws that discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community or criminalize homosexuality, and he asked that they reconsider their stance.
"These bishops have to have a process of conversion," he said. "[They should apply] tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us."
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Though Francis voiced his support for the decriminalization of homosexuality, he said he still viewed it as a "sin." But, Francis explained, he does not want "sin" and "crime" to be synonymous in relation to homosexuality.
"It's not a crime. Yes, but it's a sin," he told the AP. "Fine, but first, let's distinguish between a sin and a crime."
Francis added: "It's also a sin to lack charity with one another."
Francis, who became head of the Catholic Church in 2013, has often made statements supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
In 2020, he said he supported civil unions for same-sex couples, which was a break from the official teaching of the Catholic Church.
That same year, he told parents of LGBTQ+ youth that "God loves your children as they are."
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Yet, in 2021, the Vatican announced that the Catholic Church could not bless same-sex unions because God "does not and cannot bless sin."
The Church explained that its teachings say marriage should be between a man and a woman to create new life. The statement was approved by Francis.