Pope Francis has said that families shouldn’t shun their children for being gay, but should seek psychiatric help instead.
The head of the Catholic Church made the comments while travelling back from a visit to Ireland, where LGBT+ rights had been a key dividing issue.
The country’s leader Leo Varadkar called for acceptance of LGBT+ families during the visit, following reports that the World Meeting of Families attended by the Pope had blocked participation from Catholic LGBT+ groups and censored depictions of same-sex parents in events literature.
Speaking to journalists on the plane back to Rome, the Pope was asked what he would tell a father whose son comes out as gay.
“I would say first of all to pray— then, to not condemn, to talk, to understand, to make space for the son or daughter,” he responded, quoted in Italian newspaper La Stampa.
“Then, it depends on the age in which this disquiet: it is one thing if it’s manifested in children, there are many things one can do with a psychiatrist.
“It is another if it’s manifested in your 20s. But I would never say silence is a remedy.
“To ignore a son or daughter with homosexual tendencies [shows] a lack of fatherhood or motherhood.
“I am your father, I am your mother, let’s talk, I will not throw you out of the family.”
Pope Francis has earned a reputation as a moderniser, but critics say he has failed to turn words into actions given the Catholic Church’s poor record on LGBT+ rights globally.
In his speech before the Pope, Ireland’s Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar underlined that Ireland was no longer beholden to Catholic teachings.
He said: “The Ireland of the 21st Century is a very different place today than it was in the past. Ireland is increasingly diverse.
“One in six of us were not born here, and there are more and more people who adhere to other faiths, or who are comfortable in declaring that they subscribe to no organised religion.
“We have voted in our parliament and by referendum to modernise our laws – understanding that marriages do not always work, that women should make their own decisions, and that families come in many forms including those headed by a grandparent, lone parent or same-sex parents or parents who are divorced.
“Holy Father, I believe that the time has now come for us to build a new relationship between church and State in Ireland – a new covenant for the 21st Century. It is my hope that your visit marks the opening of a new chapter in the relationship between Ireland and the Catholic Church.
“Building on our intertwined history, and learning from our shared mistakes, it can be one in which religion is no longer at the centre of our society, but in which it still has an important place.”