Pope Francis, the head of the Anglican Communion, and a top Presbyterian minister together denounced the criminalization of homosexuality on Sunday and said gay people should be welcomed by their churches. The three Christian leaders spoke out on LGBTQ rights during an unprecedented joint airborne news conference returning home from South Sudan, the AP reports, where they took part in a three-day ecumenical pilgrimage to encourage the young country's peace process. They were asked about Francis' recent comments to the AP in which he declared that laws that criminalize gay people were unjust and that "being homosexual is not a crime."
South Sudan is one of 67 countries that criminalizes homosexuality, 11 of them with the death penalty. LGBTQ advocates say that even where such laws are not applied, they contribute to a climate of harassment, discrimination, and violence. Francis also repeated that parents should never throw their gay children out of the house, saying they're children of God. "To condemn someone like this is a sin,” he said. “Criminalizing people with homosexual tendencies is an injustice." The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, recalled that LGBTQ rights are on the current agenda of the Church of England and said he would quote the pope when the issue is discussed at the church's upcoming General Synod.
“I wish I had spoken as eloquently and clearly as the pope. I entirely agree with every word he said," Welby said. Recently, the Church of England decided to allow blessings for same-sex civil marriages but said same-sex couples could not marry in its churches. The Vatican prohibits both gay marriage and blessings for same-sex unions. The Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields, the Presbyterian moderator of the Church of Scotland, who also participated in the pilgrimage and news conference, offered an observation. "There is nowhere in my reading of the four Gospels where I see Jesus turning anyone away," he said. "There is nowhere in the four Gospels where I see anything other than Jesus expressing love to whomever he meets." The Church of Scotland allows same-sex marriages.
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