Pope Francis has roasted nations that criminalize homosexuality and has called on bishops to support the LGBTIQ+ community and welcome them into the church.
"It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin," he said, as per AP. "Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime."
He then went on to point out that a lack of kindness or ostracizing others goes against God.
“It’s also a sin to lack charity with one another,” he added.
He went on to call out bishops and church leaders who have turned their back on the LGBTIQ+ community.
His Holiness says the church should be welcoming non-heterosexual folk and to go through a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.
"These bishops have to have a process of conversion," he said.
He went on to urge them to apply kindness to all, adding: "Tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us."
"We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity."
The move has unsurprisingly copped some mixed reactions online, with hardline Christians slamming him for his pro-LGBTIQ+ views.
That's a good start. https://t.co/kmdeA9PIZO— Christine Campbell Plouffe (@christi83353917) January 25, 2023
This is genuinely amazing. Holy shit. https://t.co/FKieq6syV7— Charlie Cordes aka. Sylien (@Sylien_) January 25, 2023
Others praised him for his statements.
One Twitter user said: "The Pope is not and never will be perfect. Far from it. But I think we can and should recognize and encourage genuine progress in the right direction, even if not of sufficient magnitude, in an institution in desperate need of it."
Another added: "[His comments are] a good start."
A third commented: "This is genuinely amazing. Holy s**t."
However some called on the Pope to do more for the nations where homosexuality is a crime, accusing him of using empty words that aren't followed by action.
Great, another round of "the pope's not as homophobic as he could be."— Zack Ford (@ZackFord) January 25, 2023
If he actually lifts a finger in any of those countries after making this comment, I'll genuinely be surprised. https://t.co/rBlflQdlaV
One Twitter user said: "Great, another round of 'the Pope's not as homophobic as he could be.' If he actually lifts a finger in any of those countries after making this comment, I'll genuinely be surprised."
Another added: "Until he stops calling me a sinner, this bulls**t is nothing but lip service."
President and CEO of the US-based advocacy group Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Sarah Kate Ellis, praised the Pope for his comments.
"His historic statement should send a message to world leaders and millions of Catholics around the world: LGBTQ people deserve to live in a world without violence and condemnation, and more kindness and understanding,” she said, as per AP.
Francis’ comments mark the first time such words have been uttered by the Catholic head in history.
They are also consistent with his overall approach to LGBTQI+ people and his belief that the Catholic Church should welcome everyone and not discriminate.
About 67 countries around the world currently criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity.