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Vatican: pope remarks on same sex civil unions have not changed Church doctrine

Vatican City - The Vatican said Pope Francis' remarks on gay unions were taken out of context and have not changed church doctrine on the issue, but still confirmed Francis’ belief that gay couples should enjoy legal protections.

After Pope Francis hinted he was in favor of same sex civil unions, the Vatican claimed his remarks were taken out of context.
After Pope Francis hinted he was in favor of same sex civil unions, the Vatican claimed his remarks were taken out of context.  © Andrew Medichini/AP/dpa

The Secretariat of State sent the note to Vatican ambassadors around the world, instructing them to pass it on to local bishops for "an appropriate understanding of the Holy Father's words."

The guidance came after the Oct. 21 premiere of the film “Francesco,” at the Rome Film Festival. The Vatican nuncio to Mexico, Archbishop Franco Coppola, posted the unsigned document on his Facebook page Sunday. 

The film caused an uproar with a clip in which Francis said: "Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that."

The Vatican letter pointed out that his quote was from a 2019 Televisa interview and that the comments used in the documentary spliced combined parts of two separate responses, which Russian film-maker Evgeny Afineevsky edited together, omitting some key context. 

Francis was talking about gay people not being rejected by their parents, rather than – as the film suggests – the right of gay people to raise children of their own, the report detailed.

The last part of the quote allegedly referred to Francis' pre-pope days in Argentina, when he opposed a gay marriage bill but backed giving legal recognition to same-sex partnerships.

The letter concluded that the pope "was referring to certain provisions made by states, and certainly not to the doctrine of the Church, which he has reaffirmed numerous times over the years."

Many questions remain unanswered.

The Vatican and the Catholic Church has long opposed same sex civil unions.
The Vatican and the Catholic Church has long opposed same sex civil unions.  © picture alliance / dpa

Nevertheless, several questions remain open.

It is unclear why the Vatican did not comment earlier on a high-profile controversy which has excited Catholic progressives as much as it has angered conservative ones.

On October 22, a day after his film premiered and made headlines, the Vatican hosted an award ceremony for Afineevsky, despite the apparent misrepresentation of the pope's remarks.

In the following days and weeks, the Vatican press office stonewalled requests for comment, and never publicized the letter sent to episcopal conferences around the world.

In the Televisa interview, Francis insisted that he always maintained Catholic doctrine and said there was inconsistency for the Catholic Church when it comes to gay marriage.

The documentary cut that context. Afineevsky allegedly retrieved the uncut version after enjoying free access to the Vatican's media archives to film his documentary.

Neither the Vatican nor Afineevsky have responded to repeated questions about the cut quote or its origin.

Cover photo: Andrew Medichini/AP/dpa

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