Pope’s endorsement of same-sex unions could be ‘breakthrough’ in fighting Polish homophobia, activists say


The Pope’s endorsement of same-sex civil unions has given hope to LGBT+ activists in Poland as they fight against a rising tide of homophobic sentiment.

Pope Francis made a major break from Catholic teachings in an interview for the documentary Francesco, which premiered on Wednesday (October 21).

The pontiff said: “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

He added: “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

His message of inclusion was a huge departure from the religious rhetoric increasingly espoused in Poland, where homosexuality is condemned as a threat to children and family values.

The Polish activist Bartosz Staszewski saw it as a new opening to push for equal rights in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

“This argument that even the Pope is for civil partnerships is very needed, and we will definitely use it in our fight for civil unions and same-sex marriage,” he told Reuters.

“We see these words as a breakthrough of sorts,” agreed Katarzyna Remin, 62, an activist with Campaign Against Homophobia.

“The families formed by homosexual people are families … and people who have same-sex partnerships and more broadly LGBT+ people have the right to a family.”

Poland’s Catholic church generally takes a stronger stance than the Vatican on social issues, but it’s thought the Pope’s words could encourage religious conservatives to align themselves with his comparatively progressive views.

“Maybe it’s high time people who are part of the same church began listening to their highest hierarchy, the first bishop of Rome … these are two different churches,” said Klaudia Jachira, an opposition member of parliament tied to the Civic Coalition grouping.

However, it’s likely that the Pope’s endorsement of same-sex unions will be met with reluctance from many in the Polish church.

A spokesman for Poland’s Conference of Bishops said in a statement: “We are not able to decipher the context of these words, which could be very significant, in order to understand them correctly,” adding the pope’s words were not part of church doctrine.