Pope Francis greets people during a vigil on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 27, 2013
Pope Francis, in some of the most compassionate words from any pontiff on homosexuals, said gays should not be judged or marginalized and should be integrated into society.
In a conversation with journalists on board the plane bringing him back from a visit to Brazil on Sunday night, Francis defended gays from discrimination, but also referred to the Catholic Church's universal Catechism, which says that while homosexual orientation is not sinful, homosexual acts are.
The Pope said he won't judge priests for their sexual orientation: "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"
His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, authored a document that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests. Francis is being much more conciliatory, saying gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.
His remarks came Monday, as Francis arrived back in Rome on Monday after a triumphant week-long tour of Brazil which climaxed with a huge gathering on Rio de Janeiro's famed Copacabana beach. Organizers estimate the event had attracted more than 3 million people.