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Philippines

Philippine bishops explain pope's remarks on civil unions

Prelates say the pope was addressing homosexuals as victims of bullying, rejection and exclusion

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Philippine bishops explain pope's remarks on civil unions

Pope Francis addresses pilgrims in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican during his Angelus prayer on Oct. 25. The pontiff said gay couples should be protected by a civil union law in a new documentary. (Photo: AFP)

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The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has released a statement to explain the perceived shift in Catholic teaching on same-sex marriage based on a statement of Pope Francis.

The pope said gay couples should be protected by a civil union law in a new documentary called Francesco released on Oct. 21.

“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it,” said Pope Francis in the documentary.

The pontiff also highlighted the creation of a civil union law that maximized protection among members of the gay community, particularly among homosexual couples.

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that,” Pope Francis added.

The CBCP has said the pope has spoken as a “shepherd” in search of the one lost sheep.

“The pope speaks mainly as a shepherd who is willing to leave behind the 99 in search of the one lost sheep. Just because they stray doesn’t mean they don’t belong to the fold anymore. He is like a loving parent who just would not give up on any of his children,” the Philippine bishops said in their Oct. 26 statement titled "Where the pope is coming from".

The bishops also said Pope Francis’ position was consistent with the “radicality” of Jesus whom he called “the human face of the Merciful God.”

“It is easier to save the good and the law-abiding; it is something else to choose to save even sinners and law breakers with no other motive than the fact that they too are children of God and have been entrusted to his care”, the bishops said.

The prelates also said Pope Francis made comments on civil union law to address homosexuals as victims of bullying, rejection and exclusion.

“He personally knew because he had dared to extend pastoral care to people like them [homosexuals] when he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires. When the move [came] to legalize same-sex marriage, despite his sympathy for homosexuals, he stood his ground,” the bishops added.

The prelates also said the pope had looked back to an interview he gave to French sociologist Dominique Wolton in April 2018 on the meaning of marriage: “What to think of marriage of persons of the same sex? The word ‘marriage’ is a historical word. Ever since, in humanity and not only in the Church, it has always been between a man and a woman. One cannot change that; it is the nature of things. This is how they are.”

And so, Pope Francis suggests, 'Let’s call them civil unions.' 

“Take note he is saying this as a pastor, without compromising anything about the Church’s understanding of marriage and family. It is just that he consistently refuses to reject those who are unable to enter into marriage and build a family because of circumstances in their lives,” the bishops said.

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