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The head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State, Pope Francis, has become the first pontiff to endorse same-sex civil unions.
The move sparked cheers from gay Catholics all over the world and demands for clarification from conservatives, given the Vatican’s official teaching on the issue.
The papal thumbs-up came midway through a feature-length documentary - Francesco, which premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday.
“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis said.
Francis had endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages while serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires. However, he had never come out publicly in favour of civil unions as pope, and no pontiff before him had, either.
While many are praising the pope’s comments as an important step forward in the church’s support for LGBT people, there are also those stating that the statement contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the church about same-sex unions.