Pope Francis steps into Mexican debate over same-sex marriage

Posted October 6

Pope Francis is standing behind bishops and clergy who oppose a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in Mexico.

The pontiff offered up prayers on September 25, telling the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square that standing up for the family unit is essential, according to Vatican Radio.

"I am very happy to associate myself with the Bishops of Mexico, in supporting the commitment of the church and of civil society in favor of the family and of life, which in this time require special pastoral and cultural attention in all the world," he said.

These comments — made during Pope Francis' weekly blessing – come as Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto attempts to legalize gay nuptials.

Nieto's proposal has sparked a plethora of debate, with tens of thousands of people — organized by a group called National Front for the Family — marching through the streets in Mexico City on Sunday, wearing white and holding signs opposing same-sex marriage, The Associated Press reported.

Gay rights advocates held their own opposing protests as well, carrying signs that read "I'm gay and I'm a Catholic" and "We also have families," among other related counter messages.

According to the BBC, same-sex marriage is now legal in some Mexican states, but Nieto's proposal would change the country's constitution to allow gay nuptials across the country — a proposal critics are pushing back against.

Those opposed to Nieto's plans are asking for a meeting with him to discuss and debate the ever-contentious issue.

The pope's comments on homosexuality have often sparked commentary and headlines, as he has taken what some see as a more compassionate approach to a highly contentious issue. That said, he has not separated from the Catholic Church's traditional doctrines on marriage.

Consider that viral nature of the pontiff's comments in 2013 when he remarked, "Who am I to judge?" while speaking about Catholic priests who have same-sex attraction but who seek God out.

Pope Francis later explained his remarks in an interview with Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli.

"On that occasion I said this: If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?" he told Tornielli, according to The National Catholic Reporter. "I was paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized."

The pontiff also said that he doesn't believe people should be "defined only by their sexual tendencies" and affirmed that God loves everyone.

"I prefer that homosexuals come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, and that we pray all together," he continued. "You can advise them to pray, show goodwill, show them the way, and accompany them along it."

Over the years, Pope Francis has struck a balance between calls for mercy and standing for his denomination's view on traditional marriage. In June, he called on Christians to apologize to gays and lesbians whom they have offended.

The pontiff has also stepped into the transgender rights debate of late, saying in August that he believes it is wrong for schools to teach kids that they can change their gender.

Gay marriage wasn't the only issue mentioned during Pope Francis's remarks, as he also offered up prayers after two priests were recently killed amid drug-related violence in Mexico; a third priest who was abducted a week ago was also found murdered later on Sunday.

"I assure my prayer for the dear Mexican people, that the violence, which has in recent days reached even several priests, might cease," he said.

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