Local pastor: Pope’s support for same-sex civil unions doesn’t mean automatic change in Catholic church

Pope Francis' words were taken from a new documentary

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In news that made headlines around the world Wednesday, Pope Francis said he supports same-sex civil unions -- marking the first time in history a sitting pontiff has been vocal about this stance.

Supporters of the LBGTQ+ community say the Pope’s public words are a step in the right direction for the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope’s on-camera remarks supporting same-sex civil unions appear in “Francesco,” a feature-length documentary that premiered at the Rome Film Festival.

“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family," said the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, midway through the film. "They are children of God and have a right to family. Nobody should be thrown out or made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way, they are legally covered.”

Avery Garner, a local Protestant pastor and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, said that while it’s great to hear someone of such religious caliber support civil unions, that doesn’t mean an automatic change in the Catholic church.

But still, Garner said, “That recognition alone is important in and of itself from a faith perspective."

“It doesn’t tell us what the law’s going to do or how it’s going to change,” Garner added. “So you get excited and then you realize he’s expressing his opinion again. He’s showing us his heart again, but the church is still there.”

Francis has voiced his opinion in the past, but that was before he became pope.

When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed same-sex civil unions instead of same-sex marriage -- when Argentina was discussing legalizing same-sex marriages.

Now that Francis is the bishop of Rome, Garner is hopeful the world will take the pope’s words to heart.

News4Jax contacted the Diocese of St. Augustine for comment.

“The Diocese hasn’t seen the documentary in which the Pope spoke, and without knowing the context, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time," Diocese Director of Communications Kathleen Bagg said.

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