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Pope Francis backs same-sex civil unions in major shift on Catholic Church’s stance

“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family,” the head of the Catholic Church says in new documentary ‘Francesco’, which premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday. 

The pontiff’s comments in the film, directed by Russian-born Jew Evgeny Afineevsky, set him notably apart from his predecessors. 

The previous pope, Benedict, famously compared the need to save humanity from homosexuals to the need to save the rainforest. Even before his papacy, Benedict went as far as claiming that the homosexual “condition” tended towards “an intrinsic moral evil,” in a 1986 letter to Catholic bishops. 

By contrast, Pope Francis was named “person of the year” in 2013, the year of his accession, by LGBT magazine Advocate.  Weeks earlier, American magazine Time had also proclaimed Pope Francis its “person of the year,” in an article lauding his “conscious and skillful” approach.

The latest comments from Pope Francis also mark a break from his own previous stance on gay marriage. While he was still archbishop of Buenos Aires, he opposed moves to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010. And in the book ‘On Heaven and Earth’, published in 2013, he said it would be an “an anthropological regression” for same-sex relationships to be equal to heterosexual marriages in law.

As recently as 2018, Pope Francis was also expressing concerns over what he termed “fashionable” homosexuality, while saying that he would not welcome gay priests in the Catholic Church. 

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