WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Unscripted and unexpected on a flight from Brazil to Rome, Pope Francis said this: "If someone is gay and searching for the Lord, who am I to judge? People should not be marginalized." In what appeared to be an outreach to gays, the pope told reporters aboard the papal jet that he won't judge priests for their sexual orientation. The comments do not signal a change in church policy when it comes to gays.
In South Florida, there has been strong reaction to the pope's words. "With the church, we have a truth and I think he's trying what that truth is with a capital T," said Sean Williams a Catholic who lives in West Palm Beach. Williams and his wife MarySusan attended midday mass at St. Ann Catholic Church on Monday.
Word of the pope's words traveled around the world quickly. "He's not changing what the church is teaching," said Mrs. Williams. "However, he's helping for people to understand," she said.
The pope said that gays must be integrated into society. But not all Catholics are on the same page. South Floridians posting on the WPTV Facebook page had an array of comments about the pope's remarks.
"The church has become corrupt," wrote Victor.
"Very contrary to Catholic doctrine. BUT - it's about time! Welcome to 2013 Pope Francis!" said Michele.
"I think he's a bright light in an otherwise dark church," said Linda.
The Williams' and other Catholics believe the pope's actions - and his words - may be opening the doors to a new, and perhaps, more accepting church. "It's opening that dialogue to really speak the truth in love," said Mrs. Williams.
"If you are preaching love, you're not going to say 'love except homosexuals'," said Mr. Williams. "It's love everybody. And just like what he said, who is he to judge?"
A representative from the Diocese of Palm Beach who said that the diocese was not planning any immediate kind of public statement or response.