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Pope Francis says he won't judge gay priests

Pope Francis reached out to the LGBT community on Monday, saying he won't judge gay priests.

Pope Francis Brazil4Enlarge
Pope Francis (R) embraces a drug addict during his visit to the St. Francis Hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 24, 2013. Pope Francis warned Catholics on Wednesday against 'ephemeral idols' like money at his first public mass in his native Latin America as huge crowds lined the streets to cheer him. The first Latin American and Jesuit pontiff visited Aparecida to lead his first big mass since arriving in the country for a week-long visit of which highlight is the huge five-day Catholic gathering of World Youth Day. (LUCA ZENNARO/AFP/Getty Images)

SAO PAULO, Brazil — Pope Francis reached out to the LGBT community on Monday, saying he won't judge gay priests.

"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" he told reporters on his way back to the Vatican from Brazil, where he celebrated World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro and Aparecida.

Francis said that gay people should not be marginalized, but integrated into society, and that while the Catholic Church's position is that homosexual acts are sinful, homosexual orientation is not. Gay priests should be forgiven and their sins forgotten, he insisted.

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He also noted that while women could not be priests, he wanted them to have a greater role in the Church.

Francis's remarks are making people see him as much more conciliatory than his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who signed a document in 2005 that said men with homosexual tendencies should not be priests.

The current Pope was speaking on the subject of sexual orientation and Catholicism in response to a reporter who asked about a report in an Italian magazine that suggested that a Vatican monsignor named Battista Ricca had gay sexual relationships years ago while living in Latin America. He said a preliminary Vatican investigation found no wrongdoing on Ricca's part.

Francis arrived in Rome on Monday after spending a week in Brazil, where over 3 million Catholic pilgrims from around the world gathered on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach for Mass.