FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Pope Francis broke new ground with his papacy Monday when he said that he's not one to judge priests on their sexual orientation.
"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Francis asked.
Pope Francis continued saying that gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.
"If it applies to me then I thinks he's looking at me as being a very open, gay priest who is of good will," said American New Catholic priest Father John Joseph Reid, "Bringing people Jesus from the church that they got kicked out of, that he is actually the head of."
Father Reid said was quite surprised by the pontiff's comments. He grew up Catholic, but knew he could not be a priest in that Roman Catholic Church because he was gay.
"Another part of me was saying 'But you can't be because you are gay and you know that you can't be dishonest'," said Father Reid.
For years, Reid was a social worker, but late in life he decided to become a priest in the American New Catholic Church. He now heads the Divine Mercy Chapel in Wilton Manors. He hopes these words by the pope could bring about change.
"Be tolerant, be understanding, let people be loved by Christ, don't stand in the way, don't close the door, don't judge," said Father Reid.
Pope Francis made the comments on a return flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where he had performed a mass before millions of people the day before. During the flight he was asked about Italian media reports suggesting that a group within the church tried to blackmail fellow church officials with evidence of their homosexual activities. Italian media reported this year that the allegations contributed to Benedict's decision to resign.
Stressing that Catholic social teaching calls for homosexuals to be treated with dignity and not marginalized, Francis said it was something else entirely to conspire to use private information for blackmail or to exert pressure.
Pope Francis' comments are some of the most progressive to come out of the Vatican in recent years. In the past, the Vatican has said homosexuality is a disorder.
His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, signed a document nearly a decade ago saying men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.
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