Christians should apologize for helping to marginalize gays, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM ARMENIA (CNS) — Catholics and other Christians not
only must apologize to the gay community, they must ask forgiveness of God for
ways they have discriminated against homosexual persons or fostered hostility
toward them, Pope Francis said.

“I think the church not only must say it is sorry to
the gay person it has offended, but also to the poor, to exploited women”
and anyone whom the church did not defend when it could, he told reporters June

Spending close to an hour answering questions from reporters
traveling with him, Pope Francis was asked to comment on remarks reportedly
made a few days previously by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German
bishops’ conference, that the Catholic Church must apologize to gay people for
contributing to their marginalization.

At the mention of the massacre in early June at a gay
nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Pope Francis closed his eyes as if in pain and
shook his head in dismay.

“The church must say it is sorry for not having behaved
as it should many times, many times — when I say the ‘church,’ I mean we
Christians because the church is holy; we are the sinners,” the pope said.
“We Christians must say we are sorry.”

Changing what he had said in the past to the plural “we,”
Pope Francis said that a gay person, “who has good will and is seeking God,
who are we to judge him?”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear, he said.
“They must not be discriminated against. They must be respected,
pastorally accompanied.”

The pope said people have a right to complain about certain
gay-pride demonstrations that purposefully offend the faith or sensitivities of
others, but that is not what Cardinal Marx was talking about, he said.

Pope Francis said when he was growing up in Buenos Aires,
Argentina, part of a “closed Catholic culture,” good Catholics would not even
enter the house of a person who was divorced. “The culture has changed and
thanks be to God!”

“We Christians have much to apologize for and not just
in this area,” he said, referring again to its treatment of homosexual
persons. “Ask forgiveness and not just say we’re sorry. Forgive us,

Too often, he said, priests act as lords rather than
fathers, “a priest who clubs people rather than embraces them and is good,

Pope Francis insisted there are many good priests in the
world and “many Mother Teresas,” but people often do not see them
because “holiness is modest.”

Like any other community of human beings, the Catholic
Church is made up of “good people and bad people,” he said. “The
grain and the weeds — Jesus says the kingdom is that way. We should not be
scandalized by that,” but pray that God makes the wheat grow more and the
weeds less.

Pope Francis also was asked about his agreeing to a request
by the women’s International Union of Superiors General to set up a commission
to study the historic role of female deacons with a view toward considering the
possibility of instituting such a ministry today.

Both Sister Carmen Sammut, president of the sisters’ group,
and Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith, have sent him lists of names of people to serve on the commission,
the pope said. But he has not yet chosen the members.

As he did at the meeting with the superiors, Pope Francis
told the reporters that his understanding was that women deacons in the early
church assisted bishops with the baptism and anointing of women, but did not
have a role like Catholic deacons do today.

The pope also joked about a president who once said that the
best way to bury someone’s request for action was to name a commission to study

Turning serious, though, Pope Francis insisted the role of
women in the Catholic Church goes well beyond any offices they hold and he said
about 18 months ago he had named a commission of female theologians to discuss
women’s contributions to the life of the church.

“Women think differently than we men do,” he said,
“and we cannot make good, sound decisions without listening to the

During the inflight news conference, Pope Francis also said:

— He believes “the intentions of Martin Luther”
were not wrong in wanting to reform the church, but “maybe some of his
methods were not right.” The church in the 1500s, he said, “was not
exactly a model to imitate.”

— He used the word “genocide” to describe the massacre
of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-18 because that was the word
commonly used in his native Argentina and he had already used it publicly a
year ago. Although he said he knew Turkey objects to use of the term, “it
would have sounded strange” not to use it in Armenia.

— Retired Pope Benedict XVI is a “wise man,” a
valued adviser and a person dedicated to praying for the entire church, but he
can no longer be considered to be exercising papal ministry. “There is
only one pope.”

— “Brexit,” the referendum in which the people of
Great Britain voted to leave the European Union, shows just how much work
remains to be done by the EU in promoting continental unity while respecting
the differences of member countries.

— The Great and Holy Council of the world’s Orthodox
churches was an important first step in Orthodoxy speaking with one voice, even
though four of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox churches did not attend the
meeting in Crete.

— When he travels to Azerbaijan in September, he will tell
the nation’s leaders and people that the Armenian leaders and people want
peace. The two countries have been in a situation of tension since 1988 over
control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.

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