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Pope Francis became the first pontiff to support same-sex civil unions in comments for a documentary that premiered on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), sparking cheers from gay Catholics and demands for clarification from conservatives, according to a report by Manila Times.

The papal thumbs-up came midway through the feature-length documentary “Francesco,” which premiered at the Rome Film Festival.

The film, which features fresh interviews with the pope, delves into issues Francis cares about most, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.

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“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis said. “You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favor of civil unions as pope, and no pontiff before him had, either.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit who has sought to build bridges with gay Catholics, praised the comments as “a major step forward in the church’s support for LGBT people.”

“The pope’s speaking positively about civil unions also sends a strong message to places where the church has opposed such laws,” Martin said in a statement.

In Manila, Malacañang said President Rodrigo Duterte is in favor of same-sex civil union.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said “recognition of same-sex union has always been supported” by Duterte.

“The President has said it over and over again, pabor po siya sa isang batas na magre-recognize ng civil union sa same-sex relationships (he is in favor of law that will recognize civil union in same-sex relationships),” Roque said.

He added however that the President will leave it up to Congress to pass a legislation on it.

“Pero (But) with no less than the Pope supporting it, I think even the most conservative of
all Catholics in Congress should no longer have a basis for objecting,” Roque said.

In December 2017, Duterte said in a speech that he was in favor of changing the law to allow same-sex marriage in the Philippines.

Pope Francis’ endorsement of same-sex civil unions drew mixed reactions in the Philippines, Asia’s bastion of Catholicism.

Retired Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said he “had very serious doubts about the moral correctness” of the pontiff’s position. He said it ran against long-standing church teachings, which explicitly permit only the union of man and woman whether in civil, legal or church sacramental unions.

“This is a shocking statement coming from the pope,” Bastes told reporters in a cellphone message. “I am really scandalized by his defense of homosexual union, which surely leads to immoral acts.”

At least three other bishops expressed disbelief, saying they would verify if it’s the Vatican’s official position and if the pontiff was accurately quoted in context in a documentary.

“It is just a documentary film, so it is not official and should first be verified,” Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos said.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, the largest group of bishops in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation, has yet to issue any reaction.

LGBTQ group Bahag-hari called the pontiff’s position a “huge thing” and should lead to changes in the Philippine family code to recognize such unions.


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