Pope Francis says members of his flock are not supposed to judge gays -- or divorced and remarried people -- and must work on redefining the role of women in the church.
The leader of the worldwide Catholic Church gave an extensive interview over the course of a series of talks with Rev. Antonio Spadaro, the editor of a leading Jesuit journal in Rome. The New York Times has now published excerpts of the interview, which was printed in English by America magazine.
The pope explained his recent comments on homosexuality, telling Spadaro the Church does not want to make homosexual persons feel condemned or "socially wounded."
"I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge," says Pope Francis. "By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person."
The Bishop says his own answer to whether he "approves" of homosexuality is as follows: "Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?"
"The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently," he tells Spadaro. "We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant."
With regard to the role of women in the church, Pope Francis says the "ideology of machismo" needs to be readdressed, and the role of the woman redefined.
"The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops," says the Bishop of Rome, himself. "I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church."
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