On a flight back to Rome today, Pope Francis said he wouldn't judge priests for their sexual orientation. "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will,” he said, “Who am I to judge?" Pope Benedict, his predecessor, signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.
Francis was much more conciliatory, saying gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten. The Pope was heading home after a week-long pilgrimage to Brazil, the world’s largest Catholic country. He was welcomed by enormous crowds, including an estimated 3-million who gathered on the Copacabana beach for a prayer vigil Saturday night, culminating in Sunday’s final Mass.
Despite a dramatic drop in the number of Brazilians who identify as Catholics, the pope’s focus on poverty, political activism and social justice, seemed to go over well with the cheering crowds. But is his message enough to rebuild a church that has suffered such a dramatic decline in Latin America and beyond?
Will the Catholic Church be more welcoming to women and gays? Can the pope’s populist help him reform the troubled Vatican? Or might he face a backlash from conservatives?
Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu, Associate Professor of Theological Studies, Department of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University