Pope Francis told a Vatican-hosted gathering Monday "children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother," The Washington Post
Theologians and Vatican-watchers at the Rome meeting, titled the "Complementarity of Man and Woman," debated whether the Pope meant to "emphasize the primacy of traditional families or was he simply trying to support them," the Post reported.
Under Pope Francis, the church's tone on homosexuality has changed.
He said in 2013, "If a person is gay
and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge."
The Pope has sought to be empathetic toward homosexuals
while not shifting the Church's basic teachings, the Post reported.
The Vatican announced that the Pope would travel to Philadelphia in September 2015 for the World Meeting of Families. Shortly after he returns to Rome, bishops are to meet to refine the church's position on homosexuality and on divorced parishioners receiving communion, The New York Times
Catholic theologian John Grabowski suggested that the Pope wants those living in nontraditional relationships, whatever they may be, to stay engaged with the church. Sister Simone Campbell said, "He's opening hearts. He's not changing definitions," according to the Post.
The Vatican conference drew delegates from many religious streams. Participants included Dr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention; Rick Warren, an evangelical pastor; Jonathan Sacks, the former Orthodox chief rabbi of Britain; and Anglican, Muslim, Pentecostal and Hindu clergy.
Also attending were Henry Eyring, the Mormon leader, and the African-American Pentecostal minister Eugene Rivers and his wife, Dr. Jacqueline Rivers.
Some of those in attendance had been critical of the church's change in tone toward homosexuality, but saw the Pontiff's latest remarks as emphasizing tradition.
The Pope began by saying, "You must admit that 'complementarity' does not roll lightly off the tongue! Yet it is a word into which many meanings are compressed."
He continued, "Let us not confuse that term with the simplistic idea that all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern. Complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children — his or her personal richness, personal charisma."
Francis described the breakdown of traditional families as a warning sign of a larger problem.
"We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment."
The Pope concluded, "This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable," the Post reported.
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