Warm reception for pope's line on gays
Vendola says Francis's words are raising hope20 September, 19:23
"In these recent years, we have been accustomed to punitive (references) towards homosexual people by the Church," he said.
The pope is also providing new hope during an extremely difficult period, added Puglia's openly gay governor, Nichi Vendola.
"In the face of the despair of the world - despair that is the result of the (economic) crisis, poverty and scarcity - Pope Francis has resuscitated rare words that give us hope of change on the horizon," said Vendola, leader of the Left Ecology Freedom party (Sel).
In a wide-ranging interview published Thursday in a Jesuit journal, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church should not be "obsessed" with preaching about such issues as gay marriage and abortion but, instead, should reach out to individuals.
"We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel," Francis said.
He also called for the reform of attitudes and suggested that Catholics show "audacity and courage" in their treatment of other people, including those who have not always been respected by the Church.
Marrazzo said that only time will tell if the pope's words will lead to concrete changes.
But, he added, they seem to present an opportunity for change that politicians could learn from.
"The words of Pope Francis are an opening to a new way of understanding the relationship between Catholic doctrine and people's lives," added Marrazzo. "Surely this Pope is ahead of many Italian politicians who refer to the Catholic tradition (as justification) to attack gays".
A statement from Rome's Arcigay centre said the pope's greatest contribution on the issue of gay rights "is not a moral (argument) but a social one.
"In fact, even the pope recognizes and condemns the social stigma that gay people suffer (in Italian society)".
Arcigay suggested that with his words Pope Francis was signalling to the Church that it must tone down its anti-gay rhetoric.
Francis has been charming Catholics and non-Catholics alike with his open, friendly manner, his interest in people, his compassion for the poor, and willingness to live a simple life.
He continues to live in a Church-run guesthouse rather than the papal apartments and recently said that he did not feel any more important than any other priest.
"I'd be scared if I felt more important than a priest," said the pope, who has gained a reputation for unprecedented humility since his election in March.
He asked the clergy to tell him if he started behaving more grandly.
"If you can't say it privately, say it publicly," he said, according to Vatican Radio.