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Better late than never — Pope Francis apologizes to the gay community

The Catholic church has taken some seriously late baby steps toward accepting the LGBT community. Pope Francis said on Sunday that gay people deserve an apology from the church.

The pope isn’t the first in the Catholic church to express this view. Following the tragic Orlando shooting at gay nightclub Pulse, one of the pope’s top advisers — German cardinal Reinhard Marx — said that the gay community deserved an apology from the church, which has historically marginalized them.

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On the plane ride home from Armenia, Pope Francis agreed with Marx’s statement, according to the Associated Press. “Someone who has this condition, who has good will and is searching for God, who are we to judge?” Francis asked, echoing a statement he made in 2013 — while questionably referring to homosexuality as a “condition.”

But the pope took things a step further by suggesting that the church should apologize to the gay community and other marginalized groups: “I think the church must not only apologize… to a gay person it offended, but we must apologize to the poor, to women who have been exploited, to children forced into labor, apologize for having blessed so many weapons,” said Francis. He added that the church should also apologize to families going through divorces whom it failed to support.

Many criticized the Catholic church for its relative silence on the Orlando shooting and failure to name victims or acknowledge their sexual orientation, but the Vatican did release a statement saying that Pope Francis was horrified by the shooting: “The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred,” reads the statement.

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The church has certainly come a long way from former Pope Benedict’s assertion that gay marriage is a threat to world peace, but there’s still a long road ahead. Pope Francis made a vague statement that some interpreted as an openness to the idea of civil unions between same sex couples, saying, “We have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety,” according to CNN. Still, he still supports the church’s position that “marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Until the LGBT community gets the same benefits of Catholicism as heterosexuals, the Catholic church shouldn’t expect its apology to mean very much.

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