By Oscar Lopez
MEXICO CITY, Oct 21 (Openly) - Pope Francis has signaled a softening towards LGBT+ rights with his comments that same-sex couples should be protected by civil union laws and have the right to form a family.
In some of his clearest language on the subject since his election in 2013, the pontiff said in a documentary "Francesco" released on Wednesday that gay couples needed legal rights.
"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," he said.
The pope's views have publicly evolved since he was archbishop of Buenos Aires - and a vocal critic of same-sex marriage in Argentina before it was legalised in 2010 - to asking "who am I to judge?" a gay person who seeks God in 2013.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation asked activists, academics and religious leaders how the pope's comments could affect the lives of LGBT+ Catholics.
FRANCIS DEBERNARDO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF U.S. CATHOLIC LGBT+ ADVOCACY GROUP NEW WAYS MINISTRY
"It is an historic moment when the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, long seen as a persecutor of LGBTQ people, moves in such a supportive direction for lesbian/gay couples and their families. It signals that the church is continuing to develop more positively its approach to LGBTQ issues."
BARTOSZ STASZEWSKI, POLISH LBGT+ ACTIVIST
"The pope has spoken up that LGBT+ people need legal recognition. It is late but at least it happened. I think it will help our fight ... I hope this is a new chapter that is beginning."
MARIANNE DUDDY-BURKE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF NONPROFIT DIGNITYUSA
"The potential for this is enormous, but I don't want to get ahead of the possibilities here until we really understand what's going on.
"If it signals that the Vatican is going to stop being an impediment to legal protections for same-sex couples and our families? I mean that is an international game-changer."
BRUCE MORRILL, PRIEST AND PROFESSOR AT VANDERBILT DIVINITY SCHOOL
"I see in Pope Francis's latest remarks no potential for his enacting changes to official Roman Catholic teaching concerning the 'intrinsically disordered' character of homosexual orientation.
"Throughout his papacy he has steadily made such remarks in his spirit of 'mercy', while resisting any changes in church doctrine or polity."
LUZ ELENA ARANDA, CO-SECRETARY GENERAL OF LGBT+ ADVOCACY GROUP ILGA WORLD
"We welcome these words of the pope. We know how life-changing it will be for tens of millions of LGBTI persons worldwide - both LGBTI Catholics themselves and those living in traditionally Catholic societies - to hear him recognising us and our right to a family."
(Reporting by Oscar Lopez @oscarlopezgib, Rachel Savage and Matt Lavietes; editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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