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Pope Francis: “Who Am I to Judge” Gay Clergy

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Pope Francis greets the faithful prior to his first 'Urbi et Orbi' blessing from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica during Easter Mass on March 31, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Francis delivered his message to the gathered faithful from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in St. Peter's Square after his first Holy week as Pontiff.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Pope Francis greets the faithful prior to his first ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica during Easter Mass on March 31, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Francis delivered his message to the gathered faithful from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in St. Peter’s Square after his first Holy week as Pontiff. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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ABOARD THE PAPAL AIRCRAFT (AP) - Pope Francis is reaching out to gays, saying he won’t judge priests for their sexual orientation, in a remarkably open and wide-ranging news conference as he returns from his first foreign trip.

Francis says: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, authored a document that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests. Francis is being much more conciliatory, saying gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.

His remarks came Monday during a plane journey back to the Vatican from his first foreign trip in Brazil.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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