By Joseph Naeem
In 2013, Pope Francis shocked the world by striking a remarkably conciliatory tone on LGBT individuals, when, in response to a journalist’s question about gay priests, he declared, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Socially liberal-minded spectators applauded these comments, seen as an example of the Pope’s “soft” PR approach. His words also simultaneously updated the Roman Catholic Church’s 21st century image while also promoting a culture of inclusion for traditionally maligned groups.
Such comments as these, along with similar gestures — such as when Francis met privately with longtime friend and openly gay man Yoyo Grossi during his recent U.S. trip — have been used to promote an image of Francis as an open-minded, and even progressive, pope. However, this “soft” image is misleading when contrasted with the hard reality of the Vatican State’s immense sway over social issues within the Italian political process.
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