Rome

Pope's non-judgemental line on gays welcomed in Italy

Softer stance on homosexuality applauded by many

Pope's non-judgemental line on gays welcomed in Italy

(by Kate Carlisle) Rome, July 30 - Comments on homosexuality by Pope Francis during a candid exchange with journalists have turned heads after the pontiff said that he could not judge someone for being gay. The pope's stance, softer than the traditional Church line, represents a "turning point", Catholic philosopher and author Giovanni Reale said on Tuesday. "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 began by speaking on lobbies, which he said he was against, 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". Reale, who edited the writings of Pope John Paul II, applauded the pope's comments in an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera. "The Church must not condemn those who differ, but should help them," he said. "Although, according to the doctrine of the Church, homosexuality is a mistake because it is written in Bible, the example that applies is that of Christ who taught that who is without sin cast the first stone. The Church is doctrine, but, above all, it is example. If you do not believe that Christ is contemporary and that His message should speak to today, then faith is over," Reale said. Green Party Leader Angelo Bonelli was equally as approving. Bonelli said on Monday that "the words of Pope Francis about gays are not only revolutionary, but are of historic significance. "Pope Francis with his simplicity swept away in a few moments concepts used to fuel prejudice and discrimination," Bonelli said. "Now is the time for Italy to take a step forward and immediately approve a law against discrimination of sex, race and religion...unfortunately, there are many episodes of violence towards gays and racist insults," he said. The pope said in his unscripted remarks that 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," Pope Francis said. "Perhaps this is the first time a pope's words are not openly homophobic...are we faced with a change of direction in the Vatican on gays? I have my doubts, but in the meantime Pope's statements should be read carefully because although they are still a long way from the call for rights, they represent a new development," Alessandro Zan, a deputy with the left-wing Freedom Ecology Left (SEL) party and activist in the gay movement, said. Openly gay SEL party leader and Puglia Regional Governor Nichi Vendola commended the pope for driving a divide between homosexuality and pedophilia, something he says the Church has often associated. "Pope Francis, in one fell shot, did an amazing thing separating the issue of homosexuality from pedophilia", Vendola said. "We know too well that it is a part of reactionary clerical thinking to create confusion between these two completely different categories. The pope has said that pedophilia is not a sin, but a crime. With homosexuality, however, he said who am I to judge gays? If policy makers had the ability to listen to the pope, they would be better able to help people who are suffering," Vendola said.

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