On his flight back to the Vatican from Armenia, he told journalists: “I repeat what the catechism says: that they (LGBT people) must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected and accompanied pastorally.” He also said the Church must ask forgiveness, adding: “I believe that the Church not only should apologise to the person who is gay whom it has offended, but has to apologise to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labour. It has to ask forgiveness for having blessed so many weapons.”
He also repeated comments he made in 2013, asking: “Who are we to judge?”
London based Gay Catholic activist and blogger Terence Weldon wrote in article published on his blog site Queering the Church and on the home page of Quest, the UK’s LGBT Catholic group: “Let us offer profound thanks that Pope Francis has gone where none of his predecessors could – he’s asked of the whole Catholic community ‘who are we to judge?’. This alone will enrage his many detractors on the orthodox Catholic right to heights not previously seen.”
Jesuit priest and editor of “America: The National Catholic Review” Rev’d James Martin S. J. described the Pope’s statement as “a groundbreaking moment” adding: “While St John Paul II apologised to several groups in 2000 no Pope has ever come close to apologising to the LGBT community. And the Pope is correct. First, because forgiveness is an essential part of Christian life. And second, because no group feels more marginalised in the Church today than LGBT people.” On his twitter feed, he has written: “If you can’t understand how the church has marginalised the LGBT community, then you’ve not been listening to the LGBT community.”
Many LGBT Catholics acknowledge that Francis has yet to make any changes to Church doctrine. As Terence Weldon wrote: “…a simple apology for harm is not enough, on its own. There needs to be an admission of how the harm was done, and how it is inextricably linked to core sexual doctrine.”
The implications for the Catholic Church in Scotland are still unclear. Erin Byrne, Press and Research Officer at the Scottish Catholic Media Office, told Kaleidoscot: “Only Pope Francis can issue an apology on behalf of the whole Church. We pray for and await his guidance on how we should respond locally.” However, in the light of the Pope’s focus on mercy and inclusiveness and the increasingly liberal attitudes within the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church, LGBT Christians in Scotland are increasingly able to play a full part in the work of whichever denomination they belong to.