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Pope Francis in a recent announced documentary “Franceso” has gone where none of his predecessors went before. He has endorsed “same-sex civil union” which is a major step for the Christian community. Pope, earthly Father, God’s Ambassador, or the supreme pontiff as he is called, is the world’s most powerful religious leader. As head of the Roman Catholic Church, which is the oldest institution in the world, he is not only head of the Vatican but carries tremendous influence in over 100 nations whose heads of state he engages and maintains diplomatic relations.
Undoubtedly, his pronouncement that “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,’ will reverberate throughout the world, more particularly in the Christian community. While western democracies are secular, respecting the separation of state and religion, the latter has often held sway in influencing reaction to homosexuality. Some have argued the Holy Bible condemns this sexual orientation and damn those so inclined. Such perception has informed laws that have not only criminalised the act but prevent relations, joint property ownership and sharing health plans.
It is a situation where government, lawmakers, society and the LBGTQ community are at loggerheads. Where the latter continue to advocate for the decriminalisation of their orientation and for equality as protected by the United Nations the society is still to reach that stage of acceptance. This is part influenced by fear of the wrath of God and rejection from those who are intolerant. At the same time it should be recognised some countries have seen progress as others lag behind. And even those that have made progress find they encounter challenges to have these overturn through court action, executive order or legislative action.
Guyana for years has been grappling with recognising homosexual relationship. The society is yet to acknowledge such a relation as mainstream, with concomitant rights and benefits. This is despite there being the separation between religion and state in the Constitution. The fact remains the former holds sway in influencing laws by persons who, based on their religious outlook, are seemingly not predisposed to accepting such relationships as mainstream and the individual’s basic human rights. It bodes well for society and fighting discrimnation should conversations take place to address these inhibitions.
With Pope Francis accepting homosexuals as “children of God” and 50 percent of the Christian faith comprising Catholic, representing approximately 16 percent of the world’s population, his viewpoint is bound to impact. It also means persons will see this as respect for the orientation and could cause them to come out and form permanent relationship. The religious aspect aside, the human rights element means same sex couples would be able to have similar rights as heterosexual couples. These include, but not confined to, being on their partner’s insurance, inherit property, adopting children, etc.
Pope Francis is known not to shy away from weighing in on controversial issues by action or words. He has led on same-sex civil union as he did earlier this month when he refused to meet United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who was in Rome on a visit. It was the Pope’s opinion he would not allow the Church to be used to boost President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. Last year in March he also publicly condemned Trump’s border policy, calling it cruel and akin to building the Berlin Wall.
Public pronouncement of the Pope’s acceptance of same-sex civil union is not new. As an archbishop of Buenos Aires, he advocated for civil union for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. His announcement, revealed to the world this week, is merely an amplification of a long-held view, using the most powerful religious microphone. As Head of the Church he carries tremendous weight around the world and could likewise influence laws in respective countries where the catholicism has a footprint.