Rome

Who am I to judge gays, says pope

Pontiff speaks candidly on VatiLeaks, women in the Church

Who am I to judge gays, says pope

Rome, July 29 - In a candid exchange with journalists as he ended his first foreign trip as pontiff, Pope Francis turned heads Monday when he said that he could not judge someone for being gay. "I don't judge. If a person is of good will, who am I to judge?" he said aboard a Rome-bound flight from Rio De Janeiro, where he wrapped up a week-long visit for World Youth Day. He also said he was against all lobbies, not just gay ones, after controversy earlier this year when he was quoted as admitting there was a gay lobby in the Vatican. "Being gay is a tendency. The problem is the lobby," he said. "The lobby is unacceptable, lobbies of greedy people, the gay one, the political one, the Masonic one, so many lobbies. This is the worst problem". Instead, when it comes to individuals, Francis said gays and lesbians should not be marginalized: "(The catechism) says they should not be marginalised because of this but that they must be integrated into society". In his unscripted remarks in Spanish and Italian, Francis also commented on women's role in the Church, arguing in favor of broadening their responsibility without elevating them to the priesthood. "We cannot limit the role of women in the Church to altar girls or the president of a charity, there must be more," he said. "But with regards to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and says no. That door is closed". He also answered questions on the Vatican Bank, which is attempting to join the international white list of financial institutions after decades of scandal over alleged corruption. Francis said he believed in ensuring transparency while adding he did not know what would come of the financial arm officially known as the Institute of Religious Works (IOR). "Some say it is better that it is a bank, others say it should be a charitable fund and others say close it," he said. The pope then attempted to discredit reports of there being a gay prelate with "a scandalous past" at IOR. "With regard to Monsignor Battista Ricca, I followed canon law and performed (an investigation known as) investigatio previa, and it uncovered nothing for which he's accused, we haven't found anything," the pontiff said. Earlier this month the Italian weekly L'Espresso reported that Ricca, who Francis recently appointed to a bank office, scandalized priests and nuns at the Vatican embassy in Uruguay with his amorous conduct involving a Swiss army captain from 1999 to 2001. Before his promotion, Ricca was in charge of Saint Martha's House, the Vatican dormitory used by staff and visitors and, since his election in March, the pope, who has eschewed the papal apartments. Francis then moved on to the prickly topic of the so-called 'VatiLeaks' affair that plagued his predecessor, something he called "a huge problem," but added that he was "not frightened by it". Paolo Gabriele, the butler to Benedict XVI, was arrested last year for leaking confidential letters and documents that made allegations of Church corruption and intrigue. Benedict commissioned a 300-page, two-volume dossier on the affair which has only been revealed to the now-retired Benedict and his successor Francis, according to the Vatican. "When I went to Benedict he presented me with a box with all the witness statements," said Francis, adding that Benedict "had everything in his head, he remembered everything".

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