Some say his trip last week to Brazil, capped by a Mass for 3 million on Copacabana Beach, and the 80-minute, unfiltered news conference on the plane back to Rome, were the real start of Pope Francis’s pontificate.
During the flight, he fielded 21 questions on subjects ranging from scandals at the Vatican bank to women in the Church to why he carries his own briefcase. But perhaps the comments that revealed most about the type of Church he envisions came in response to a question about gays in the Vatican.
“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” he said, pointing out that the Church’s Catechism says homosexuals should not be marginalized, and should be treated with respect and integrated into society.
It was the first time any pope had uttered the word ‘gay’ in public – using it five times – and was another sign that he has his ear closer to the ground than his predecessor Benedict, whom he succeeded as head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics in March.