The Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix, today issued the following statement reflecting on Pope Francis’ pilgrimage to Brazil:
Pope Francis just concluded his first apostolic pilgrimage abroad to celebrate World Youth Day in Brazil. Millions of people crowded together to welcome and pray with the Holy Father, including many from the Diocese of Phoenix. Thanks to Catholic news outlets and social media, many millions more tuned in from afar to witness this tremendous celebration of faith.
During the July 22-28 visit, Pope Francis was out and among the people, visiting not only with the youth and Church leaders gathered there, but also with prisoners, the poor, the sick and drug addicts. His message was clear: We are all to follow in Christ’s footsteps, to do so with missionary zeal, and to be messengers of the Lord Jesus in the public square.
Catholics of the world enthusiastically shared the Holy Father’s emphases on fidelity, love and inclusion, but it was comments made by Pope Francis on his return trip to the Vatican that have gained a great deal of traction today in the media. In response to a question about homosexual priests, Pope Francis replied:
"A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will — well, who am I to judge him?" the pope said, according to Catholic News Service. "The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn’t this (homosexual) orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters.”
Pope Francis’ remarks reiterate Catholic teaching that the Church is open to all people, including those with same-sex attractions, but homosexual activity is contrary to the Gospel of Christ — just as all sexual activity outside of marriage would be. A priest must be able to live a healthy, celibate lifestyle, whether or not he has ever experienced same-sex attractions.
I also take this opportunity to emphasize that people with same-sex attractions deserve compassion, respect and sensitivity, and that every sign of unjust discrimination must be avoided.
I am delighted that the Holy Father continues to lead us in Christ’s footsteps and that his message of love and truth has reached so many people. I pray that our clergy, religious, laity and especially our youth will take up his call and bring the light of faith to the world.
[CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters]