Pope Francis has urged parents worldwide to unconditionally support, not condemn, their children if they are gay.
The leader of the Catholic Church made his latest gesture of outreach to the LGBT+ community in off the cuff statements during his weekly general audience on Wednesday (26 January).
He spoke to the crowd about different “sad” situations that parents face in their children’s lives. This included coping with children who live with serious illnesses, are imprisoned or come out as part of the LGBT+ community.
“Parents who see that their children have different sexual orientations, how they manage that and accompany their children and not hide behind a condemning attitude,” Pope Francis said.
He told parents “never condemn” and not to be afraid of their children.
While the LGBT+ community has long been marginalised within the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has frequently voiced that people should be more accepting of queer people.
In 2013, the pontiff argued that LGBT+ people should not be marginalised by society, famously saying: “Who am I to judge?”
A year later, he said the Catholic Church must help and support parents to stand by their LGBT+ children.
Pope Francis said Catholic Church officials encountered parents who struggled with how to support their gay child “all the time in the confessional”. He added that he had experienced such confessions “several times” when he worked in “Buenos Aires”.
“We have to find a way to help that father or that mother to stand by their son or daughter,” he said.
However, he has not shied away from his support of the Catholic Church’s stance on same-sex marriage.
In September, he declared that “marriage is a sacrament” and that the “church doesn’t have the power to change sacraments”.
But Pope Francis insisted that refusing to allow queer couples the same sacramental rights as heterosexual couples “does not mean condemning them”. He added that LGBT+ people are “our brothers and sisters”, and “we need to be close to them”.
In March last year, the Vatican ruled that the Catholic Church couldn’t bless same-sex unions because God “does not and cannot bless sin”.
The comments, made by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, directed church members not to give blessings to same-sex couples as doing so would be an affront to God.
In December, a Vatican official apologised after the website of the Synod of Bishops removed and later reinstated a link to material referencing leading Catholic LGBT+ advocacy group, New Ways Ministry.
The Synod had included reference to a webinar video made by New Ways Ministry which urged LGBT+ Catholics to participate in a consultation process to make the Church more welcoming.
Thierry Bonaventura, the Synod’s communications director, apologised to “all LGBT and to the members of New Ways Ministries for the pain caused” by taking down the video.