Pope Francis endorsed same-sex civil unions for the first time as pope while being interviewed for the feature-length documentary Francesco, which had its premiere at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday.
Francis’s comments came midway through the film, which delves into issues he cares about most, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality and the people most affected by discrimination.
“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis said in one of his sit-down interviews for the film. “What we have to have is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”
Francis, believed to the first pope to use the word gay publicly, famously told a reporter in 2013, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Three years later in a papal exhortation, Francis said, “every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence.”
Evolving views on homosexuality
Francis has never come out publicly in favour of civil unions as pope.
While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples, but he criticized a gay marriage bill passed into law in Argentina in 2010 as a “destructive attack on God’s plan.”
He has also been opposed to adoption by gays.
Director Evgeny Afineevsky, who received an Oscar nomination for his 2015 documentary Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, had access to cardinals, the Vatican television archives and the pope himself in making the film.
WATCH | The trailer for documentary Francesco:
One of the main characters in the documentary is Juan Carlos Cruz, the Chilean survivor of clergy sexual abuse whom Francis initially discredited during a 2018 visit to Chile.
Cruz, who is gay, said that during his first meetings with the pope in May 2018, Francis assured him that God made Cruz gay. Cruz tells his own story in snippets throughout the film, chronicling both Francis’s evolution on understanding sexual abuse as well as documenting the pope’s views on gay people.