Pope Francis endorses same-sex civil unions in new documentary film

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Pope Francis endorsed same-sex civil unions for the first time as pope while being interviewed for the feature-length documentary Francesco.

Pope Francis endorsed same-sex civil unions for the first time as Pope, while he was interviewed for the feature-length documentary Francesco. The documentary premiered on Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival.

The Pope Francis endorsement came midway through the film that delves into issues Francis cares about most, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.

“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family; they are the children of God,” Francis said in the interview. “What we have to have is a civil union law; and in that way they are also legally covered.”

Pope Francis endorses same-sex civil unions

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favour of civil unions as pope.

The Jesuit priest who has been at the forefront in seeking to build bridges with gays in the church, the Rev James Martin, praised the pope’s comments as a major step forward in the church’s support for LGBT people.  “The Pope’s speaking positively about civil unions also sends a strong message to places where the church has opposed such laws,” Martin said in a statement.

One of the main characters in the documentary is Juan Carlos Cruz, the Chilean survivor of clergy sexual abuse. Pope Francis initially discredited him during a 2018 visit to Chile.

A gay, Cruz said that during his first meeting in May 2018, Francis assured him that God made Cruz gay.

Cruz tells his own story in snippets throughout the film. He chronicled both Francis’ evolution on understanding sexual abuse as well as to document the pope’s views on gay people.

Director Evgeny Afineevsky had remarkable access to cardinals, the Vatican television archives and the Pope himself.

He said he negotiated his way in through persistence, and deliveries of Argentine mate tea and Alfajores cookies. He got these to the pope via some well-connected Argentines in Rome.

Pope saw the movie on his iPad

“Listen, when you are in the Vatican, the only way to achieve something is to break the rule and then to say, ‘I’m sorry,’” Afineevsky said in an interview ahead of the premiere.

The director worked official and unofficial channels starting in early 2018. And he ended up so close to Francis by the end of the project. He showed the Pope the movie on his iPad in August. The two recently exchanged Yom Kippur greetings; Afineevsky is a Russian-born Jew who lives in Los Angeles. But Francesco is more than a biopic about the pope.

Wim Wenders did that in the 2018 film Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

Francesco is more a visual survey of the world’s crises and tragedies. However, audio from the Pope provides possible ways to solve them. Afineevsky travelled the world to film it: the settings include Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh where Myanmar’s Rohingya sought refuge; the US-Mexico border and Francis’ native Argentina.

The film tells story of the Pope

“The film tells the story of the Pope by reversing the cameras,” said Vatican communications director Paolo Ruffini. Paolo is one of Afineevsky’s closest Vatican-based collaborators on the film.

Ruffini said that when Afineevsky first approached him with the idea of a documentary, he tried to tamp down his hopes for interviewing the Pope.

“I told him it won’t be easy,” he said.

But Ruffini gave him some advice and names of people who had been the Pope impacted. Afineevsky found them. They were refugees Francis met with on some of his foreign trips and prisoners he blessed. And some of the gays to whom he has ministered.

“I told him that the Vatican cameras had filmed many of those encounters. And that there he would find a veritable gold mine of stories that told a story,” Ruffini said. He would be able to tell story of the pope through the eyes of all and not just his own.

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