Pope Francis says he won't judge gay priests

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.