The Vatican – In a new documentary that premiered October 21 in Rome, Pope Francis called for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples. This is a radical shift in stance from the position held for years by the Vatican’s doctrinal office. Previous popes — particularly Francis’s immediate predecessors, Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II, both staunchly anti-gay — have been unmoved on the issue of same-sex unions of any kind. The film, Francesco, sees Pope Francis speaking at length about pastoral care — a form of emotional, social and spiritual support — for LGBT people. “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” Pope Francis said. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it.” The pope then added a declarative statement on civil unions for same-sex couples. “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” he said.

Oscar nominated filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky, who lives in the U.S., told Catholic News Agency that the pope made his call for civil unions during interviews Afineevsky conducted with him for the film. In 2010, during his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis opposed efforts to legalize same-sex marriage but privately endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. He had never come out publicly in favor of civil unions as pope prior to his statements in the documentary. Pope Francis has long complained that the American Catholic Church is “obsessed” with abortion, birth control and same-sex marriage, while ignoring the Church’s teachings on racism, immigration and poverty. Filmmaker Afineevsky focused his documentary on Pope Francis as a man deeply concerned with social issues and how they relate to the most vulnerable and oppressed members of society, including LGBT people, immigrants, refugees and Black Americans. The film highlights the pope’s outspoken concerns over racism — he has supported Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S.

In June, Pope Francis mentioned George Floyd by name two times in a speech. He also offered support to the highest-ranking African American bishop in the U.S., Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C., who denounced President Trump’s visit at a religious place honoring St. John Paul II. Pope Francis also supported Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, who knelt in prayer during a Black Lives Matter protest. During his weekly prayer, the pope said, “My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.” Pope Francis has been highly critical of many of President Trump’s actions and has criticized the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the Mexican border, saying populism is not the answer to the world’s immigration problems. (Philadelphia Gay News – Victoria A. Brownworth at

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