In Francesco, a new documentary that premiered Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival, Pope Francis voiced his support for civil unions for same-sex couples for the first time. "What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered," said the Pope in the Evgeny Afineevsky-directed film, adding, “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it."
Pope Francis has distinguished himself as a relatively liberal figure on LGBTQ+ rights, saying in 2013, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Still, this measure of support for civil unions is unprecedented in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, who has long held a firm stance against "homosexual behavior" and "legal recognition of homosexual unions."
It's unclear at this time whether Pope Francis's pro-LGBTQ+ stance will lead to tension with other Church leadership. There has been no immediate comment from the Vatican following Pope Francis's remarks, although it's possible a discourse will be forced when the film premieres in North American on Sunday.
In the meantime, many LGBTQ+ activists and community members are celebrating the news of Pope Francis's support: "The Pope’s speaking positively about civil unions also sends a strong message to places where the church has opposed such laws,” Jesuit priest James Martin, who has been instrumental in advocating for increased rights for LGBTQ+ individuals within a religious context, said in a Wednesday statement.