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Pope's startling announcement may end Vatican's war on homosexuals

'Who am I to judge?'

Pope Francis waves to people from his popemobile in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Pope Francis waves to people from his popemobile in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)Read more

Pope Francis may yet be the savior of the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever he turns out to be, right now he's a much-needed breath of fresh air. Take that from someone who has been an unabashed opponent of recent Popes.

Pope Francis from day one proved to be different and a man of this time, not 500 years hence where the church had been stuck. On his flight back from Brazil on Monday, he met with the press and made several startling announcements, so startling that it may end the truly ugly and hateful battle the church has waged against the LGBT community.

First, he made it clear that gay people could still be priests as long as they practice celibacy like heterosexual priests. That's fair enough, gays must follow the rules like all. His predecessors, Pope Benedict and John Paul II, both tossed out gay priests and made it clear the rules did not apply to them.  This is a sea change, regardless of whatever spin conservatives in the church will put on it. Something he said during that chat was not quite appreciated at the time, but says a lot about him as a person who respects diversity. He made it a point while speaking in Italian, that each time he had to refer to homosexuality, he didn't use that word. He spoke that word in English and used the word gay. This was lost on most, but if you put it with his other statement "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"

The Vatican establishment leaked a story to an Italian magazine about a homosexual lobby in the Vatican. Responding to this, Pope Francis stated he had investigated the reports and found them groundless. He added that while such a lobby would be an issue, he did not have anything against gays and that their sins should be forgiven, according to media reports. He said that homosexuals should be treated with dignity and that no one should be blackmailed or pressured because of sexual orientation. However, what he said does not suggest acceptance of anyone, priest or otherwise, engaging in homosexual acts.

Please take note of the Philadelphia Archdiocese and the Catholic Conference lobby in Harrisburg. These are the two organizations in the Keystone State that make Pennsylvania the only state in the Northeast that does not offer dignity to LGBT people by having a non-discrimination law. The most prominent lobby against that law is the Catholic Conference. They attempt to lobby quietly, but count this column as an end to that, for this columnist will continue to spotlight their activities if they continue to oppose non-discrimination laws, and attempt to protect pedophile priests from justice.

Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, has been recognized by the National Newspaper Association, Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, Suburban Newspapers of America and the Society of Professional Journalists, among others. He can be reached via Facebook or Twitter.