Pope Francis has thrown his support behind civil unions for same-sex couples, calling for a new law that protects their right to have a family.
His remarks were a shift away from the Vatican’s disapproval of any “legal recognition of homosexual unions”, as specified in the church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family,” Pope Francis said in a new documentary called Franceso.
“Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it.”
He proceeded to call for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples.
“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” he said.
It is the first time that the 83-year-old has publicly endorsed same-sex unions since taking the papal seat.
It is also some of the clearest language the pontiff has used on the subject since his election in 2013, Papal biographer Austen Ivereigh told Reuters.
Pope Francis said he had “stood up” for some kind of legal protection for the rights of gay couples when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.
At the time, however, he opposed legislation to approve same-sex marriages.
Early in his papacy he made the now-famous “Who am I to judge?” remark about homosexuals trying to live a Christian life.
Premiering on Wednesday, Francesco is a feature film that covers the life and ministry of Pope Francis.
He spoke in a section of the film about Andrea Rubera, a gay man who with his partner adopted three children.
Mr Rubera says in the film that he went to a morning Mass the Pope said in his Vatican residence and gave him a letter explaining his situation.
He told the Pope that he and his partner wanted to bring the children up as Catholics in the local parish but did not want to cause any trauma for the children.
It was not clear in which country Mr Rubera lives.
Mr Rubera said the Pope telephoned him several days later, telling him he thought the letter was “beautiful” and urging the couple to introduce their children to the parish but to be ready for opposition.
“His message and his advice was really useful because we did exactly what he told us. It’s the third year that they (the children) are on a spiritual path in the parish,” Mr Rubera says in the film.
“He didn’t mention what was his opinion about my family so (I think) he is following the doctrine on this point but the attitude towards people has massively changed,” he said.
The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful but homosexual acts are.
It teaches that homosexuals should be treated with dignity.