Pope Francis said that he does not judge gays and that they should be integrated into society, but made it clear that the priesthood remains closed to women.
Francis made those statements at a press conference where the reporters present, including those from Efe, were on a plane with the pope as he returned to Rome from Rio de Janeiro, where he had presided over the 28th World Youth Day event.
For 90 minutes he answered all the questions asked by reporters with no subjects out of bounds, including some very delicate matters like the suspected gay lobby in the Vatican.
"If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?," the 76-year-old Argentine pontiff said.
"The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worst problem," he said.
"You see a lot written about the gay lobby. I still have not seen anyone in the Vatican with an identity card saying they are gay," Francis quipped.
The pope spoke up for women having a greater role in the church, but rejected any suggestion that they might be accepted into the priesthood.
"We cannot limit the role of women in the Church to altar girls or the president of a charity, there must be more ...," he told one questioner.
"But with regards to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and says 'no,' Pope John Paul said so with a formula that was definitive. That door is closed," Francis said.
As to the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, he said it will not be on Dec. 8 and that the dates currently being considered are Nov. 24 and April 27, 2014. EFE