Pope Francis says Africans are a special case when it comes to the acceptance of queer persons.
Francis spoke in reaction to the backlash he received for approving same-sex blessings for LGBTQ couples last month.
After the blessings were allowed in a document called “Fiducia supplicans”, there was intense debate in the Catholic church, with strong resistance coming particularly from African bishops.
Speaking with La Stampa, Italian newspaper, in an interview published on Monday, the pope said the essence of the blessings was to show that the gospel sanctifies everyone.
He added that Africans particularly opposed the development because of their culture, but expressed optimism that everyone would embrace the situation.
“Those who protest vehemently belong to small ideological groups,” Francis said.
“A separate case are Africans: for them homosexuality is something ‘ugly’ from a cultural point of view. They do not tolerate it.
“But in general, I trust that gradually everyone will reassure themselves on the spirit of the ‘Fiducia supplicans’ statement of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith: it wants to include, not divide. He invites people to welcome and then entrust people, and entrust themselves, to God.”
Asked if he was concerned about a split in the church over the development, Francis replied in the negative, saying “in the church, there were small groups that manifested reflections of schismatic color” but that “you have to let them go and pass… and look ahead”.
Speaking about his health challenges in recent years with hospitalisations, mobility issues, and cancelled trips becoming the order of his day, the 87-year-old said: “There are some aches and pains but it’s better now. I’m fine”.