Pope Francis says the Church should welcome divorcees, help families of homosexuals

Pope Francis(Photo: Reuters)

Pope Francis urged tolerance and inclusion in an interview with an Argentine newspaper published on Sunday.

In the La Nación interview, the pontiff said that the Church must welcome divorced Catholics and support families of homosexuals, and that debate about the issues is a good thing.

The comments were the pope's first since the end of the synod, or meeting of bishops, in October.

The bishops disagreed strongly regarding the treatment of divorced and remarried Catholics and homosexuals. One group called for acceptance of gay couples and for remarried Catholics to be able to take communion. More traditional church leaders criticised such changes.

Pope Francis said the synod did not discuss officiating gay marriages, but that the bishops should support "a family that has a homosexual son or daughter... (and consider) how can they raise him or her."

Regarding remarried church members, he criticised the church's prohibitions against them becoming godparents, or reading during Mass.

"It seems they are excommunicated de facto," he insisted, suggesting that the church should "open the doors a little bit more." Francis did not address the issue of remarried Catholics receiving communion, but asked "Why can't they be godparents?"

Pope Francis has been deemed one of the most liberal popes, and has caused friction among the more conservative and tradition-minded church leaders. In October, US Cardinal Raymond said that the Catholic Church under Pope Francis is "a ship without a rudder".

The Pope welcomed the criticism.

"Resistance is now evident," he said. "And that is a good sign for me," that there isn't "hidden mumbling when there is disagreement... It's healthy to get things out into the open."

He revealed that the Vatican bureaucracy reorganiation will not be completed in 2015, and that he will travel to three Latin American countries and Africa next year in addition to already announced plans to visit Sri Lanka, the Philippines and the US.