PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — This Holy Father is proving himself to be a pope of the people.
Pope Francis brought millions of faithfuls together on a Brazilian beach – his first foreign trip as pontiff.
Answering reporters’ questions, returning home, the pope made waves on two issues dividing the Roman Catholic Church.
The first on homosexuality among priests — the pope responded: “if someone is gay and he searches for the lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
“He’s speaking in a language that I think many people can understand and I think that’s the reason that everybody’s antenna go up when Pope Francis says something,” said Bishop David Zubik with the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Bishop Zubik says the pope’s comments are in no way contrary to current church teachings.
Pope Francis included that he has not veered from the teaching of the church around homosexual activity versus homosexual inclination.
“What’s amazing is that we have the pope talking about gay issues in a non-judgmental way,” said Chris Bryan with Pittsburgh’s Delta Foundation.
Speaking for the Delta Foundation, a leading gay rights advocacy group, Bryan believes the pope’s words will start a conversation.
“’Who am I to judge?’ Because that’s what religions is all about isn’t it? Being compassionate, loving one another,” Bryan said.
Saying that the Church has already spoken on the issues of women priests and abortion, but Pope Francis went on to say that much more needs to be done about women having a greater role.
He said “Mary is more important than the apostles,” adding that important female biblical figures have been overlooked.
He also said, “One must think of women in the church. We have not done enough theology on this.”
“It’s pretty astounding in this day and age to hear the Holy Father say something to that effect,” said Sister Maria Fest with the Sisters of Divine Providence.
Beside equality, Sister Maria agrees a change in theology is overdue.
“Expand who women are in the church – not just what they can do,” she said.
The Catholic League President and CEO Bill Donohue agrees with Bishop Zubik that Pope Francis isn’t saying anything different from what the Catholic Church has been saying. In an interview with CNN, Donohue corrected the story by stating in 2005 Pope John Paul II had said if you performed homosexuality you were not welcomed into the seminary.
“It was a change in style, but not in substance,” Donohue said. “If the person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who are we to judge them? Being straight doesn’t make you better than being gay and vice versa.”
In the 1970s, Donohue describes a generation of priests who came and “nested” together in the seminary as a place of safety and comradery. He asks that all priests should never form a lobby together because they will put their interests above the collective.
“Whether you’re straight or gay, you need control your thoughts if you want to be a priest,” Donohue said.