Pope Francis is reaching out to gays, saying he won't judge priests for their sexual orientation, in a remarkably open and wide-ranging news conference as he returns from his first foreign trip.
"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Francis said during a plane journey back from his trip in Brazil.
His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, authored a document that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests. Francis is being much more conciliatory, saying gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.
Both the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Courage, a ministry office within the Archdiocese that is responsible for counseling persons with same-sex attractions, declined to comment on the Pope's remarks.
"It’s more of a lean forward than a step forward. He was basically saying be more welcoming of members of the LGBT community, but acting on homosexuality is still a sin. I think there are some positive things that can be taken from his comments, which is him not judging gays because in the Catholic Church there are a lot of judgments that tend to be made about the LGBT community. There’s still the part where he says it’s still a sin, which we don’t agree with, but we’re not gonna be able to get him past that any time soon," Viola said.
Dignity Philadelphia is the local chapter of the national organization, Dignity USA whose mission is to support Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Catholics with integrating their spirituality with their sexuality.
Viola says he doesn't think the Pope's comments will have a direct effect on parishes in Philadelphia.
"I think in Philadelphia there are some parishes that are more LGBT friendly than others, despite what comes down from the Vatican. We’ve had in the past, other Popes who have not been as nice. I'm not expecting to see the Pope waving a rainbow flag any time soon but I do think that this Pope appears to be trying to be more inclusive."