Pope Francis has spoken in defense of civil union laws for same-sex couples, breaking with both the Vatican's and his own previous position on the issue.
"Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They're children of God and have a right to a family," Francis said in a new documentary, "Francesco." "...Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it."
The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II said that "respect for homosexual persons" did not include "approval of" or "legal recognition," of the behavior or marriages.
Francis had originally opposed efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010 while serving as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. He has since changed his position.
"What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered," the pope said. "I stood up for that."
Although likely to spark controversy among Catholics, some leaders praised the change
"This is the first time as pope he's making such a clear statement," the Rev. James Martin, a prominent Jesuit who has previously pushed for the church to more openly welcome LGBT members. "I think it's a big step forward. In the past, even civil unions were frowned upon in many quarters of the church. He is putting his weight behind legal recognition of same-sex civil unions."
Francis made the remarks during an interview with filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky, who has been working on documentary "Francesco" about the pope since 2018. The film also explores Francis's advocacy for migrants, refugees, and the poor, as well as his work on sexual abuse in the church.