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‘Major step forward’ as Pope Francis backs same-sex civil unions for first time as pontiff

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Pope Francis’s move to back same-sex civil unions for the first time as pontiff has been described as a “major step forward” for the LGBT community.

“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” he said during an interview for a feature-length documentary.

“What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages but never publicly backed civil unions as pope.

The Jesuit priest who has been at the forefront in seeking to build bridges with homosexuals in the Church, the Reverend James Martin, praised the Pope’s comments as “a major step forward in the church’s support for LGBT people”.

“The Pope’s speaking positively about civil unions also sends a strong message to places where the Church has opposed such laws,” he said in a statement.

One of the main people in the documentary is Juan Carlos Cruz, the Chilean survivor of clergy sexual abuse who Francis initially discredited.

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Mr Cruz, who is gay, said that during his first meetings in Chile with the Pope in May 2018, Francis told him God made him gay.

He tells his own story in snippets throughout the film, chronicling both Francis’ evolution on understanding sexual abuse as well as to document the Pope’s views on gay people.

Director Evgeny Afineevsky had remarkable access to cardinals, the Vatican television archives and the Pope himself.

He said he negotiated his way in through persistence and deliveries of Argentine mate tea and Alfajores cookies that he got to the Pope via some well-connected Argentines in Rome.

Afineevsky said in an interview ahead of the premiere: “Listen, when you are in the Vatican, the only way to achieve something is to break the rule and then to say I’m sorry’.”

The director worked official and unofficial channels, starting in early 2018, and ended up so close to Francis by the end of the project that he showed the Pope the movie on his iPad in August.

The two recently exchanged Yom Kippur greetings.

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