Pope Francis has endorsed same-sex civil unions as pope for the first time, departing from the position of the Vatican’s doctrinal office and his predecessors on the rights of gay people.
The remarks came in a documentary called Francesco that was released on Wednesday.
“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it,” the pontiff said, as he reflected on pastoral care for those who identify as LGBTQ.
“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that,” he said.
The documentary on the life and ministry of Pope Francis was presented at the Rome Film Festival, and is set to make its North American premiere on Sunday.
The film chronicles the pope’s approach to pressing social issues, and in the words of the pontiff, those living “on the existential peripheries”.
The pope’s direct call for civil union laws represents a seismic shift from the perspective of his predecessors, and from his own more circumspect positions on civil unions in the past.
In 2010, while he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis opposed efforts to legalise same-sex marriage.
Sergio Rubin, the pope’s biographer, suggested that Francis supported the idea of civil unions as a way to prevent the wholesale adoption of same-sex marriage in Argentina.
Miguel Woites, director of the Argentinian Catholic news outlet AICA, dismissed that claim as false in 2013.
In his 2013 book On Heaven and Earth, Pope Francis, who was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, did not reject the possibility of civil unions outright, but said laws “assimilating” homosexual relationships to marriage are “an anthropological regression”.
He also expressed concern that if same-sex couples “are given adoption rights, there could be affected children”.
“Every person needs a male father and a female mother that can help them shape their identity,” he said.