Pope Francis has said that laws criminalising LGBTQ+ people are unjust and should be considered a “sin”. He was backed by the head of the Anglican Communion, Justin Welby, and the top Presbyterian minister of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields, in denouncing such laws.
On Sunday, February 5, the three Christian leaders discussed LGBTQ+ rights during an airborne news conference. They were returning from South Sudan, the second of two stops, after the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), of an ecumenical pilgrimage to facilitate the countries’ peace process.
During the conference, the Pope was questioned about remarks he had made to the Associated Press condemning laws that criminalising LGBTQ+ people and repeated once again that such laws are “unjust”. “To condemn someone like this is a sin,” he told reporters on the plane. “Criminalising people with homosexual tendencies is an injustice.”
He continued: “People with homosexual tendencies are children of God. God Loves them. God accompanies them,” also adding that “the criminalisation of homosexuality is a problem that cannot be ignored”.
South Sudan is among the 67 countries currently criminalising same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults. Even though these laws are not always enforced, they directly contribute to violence against LGBTQ+ people by creating a hostile environment where hate is acceptable.
Meeting South Sudan’s leaders for the first time since 2019, there was both hope and sadness. We had hoped and prayed for more. We expected more. You promised more.
— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) February 3, 2023
The two other Christian leaders present at the conference backed the Pope’s opinion on the matter. The Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Communion, Justin Welby, said that recently LGBTQ+ rights have been central to the agenda of the Church of England.
“I wish I had spoken as eloquently and clearly as the Pope. I entirely agree with every word he said,” Welby said. He also added that he would report the Pope’s words on the matter at the Church’s upcoming General Synod. The Church of England has recently decided that, while they will allow blessing for same-sex unions, same-sex marriages could not be performed in its churches.
The top Presbyterian minister, Iain Greenshields, was the third leader present at the conference. As head of the Church of Scotland, where same-sex marriages can be performed in churches, he also offered his opinion, saying: “There is nowhere in my reading of the four Gospels where I see Jesus turning anyone away.”
He added: “There is nowhere in the four Gospels where I see anything other than Jesus expressing love to whomever he meets… And as Christians, that is the only expression that we can possibly give to any human being, in any circumstance.”
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