The largest gay rights group in the United States says the comments today by Pope Francis reflect a "hopeful change in tone."

Pope Francis (Getty Images)
Pope Francis (Getty Images)

The pope today told reporters during a flight home from Brazil that he won't judge priests for their sexual orientation. He said, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" He also said gay clergymen should be forgiven, and their sins forgotten.

Although gay leaders are encouraged by the pope's non-judgmental approach, their encouragement was tempered by his reference to the "sins" of gay clergy. The head of the Human Rights Campaign says as long as gays are told in church that their lives are "sinful because of how they were born," then "the church is sending a deeply harmful message."

Still, the executive director of the U.S.-based New Ways Ministry says he's "overjoyed." Francis DeBernardo, whose group promotes justice and reconciliation for gays and the wider church community, says it's a welcome change from the negative comments about gays that he says have been coming from the Vatican for decades.


(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM