Lost in the election day shuffle was the fact that the official English version (well, mostly English) of the Vatican’s response to the comments made by Pope Francis in the Francesco documentary has been published. Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia tweeted images of the official document sent by US papal nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre to the USCCB president, Archbishop Jose Gomez.

Oddly, the letter from Archbishop Pierre does not provide English translations to Francis’s quotes given during the 2019 interview (they appear verbatim in Spanish). Thankfully, Bishop McManus of Worchester has posted the text of the letter and supplied the necessary translations in parentheses following the Spanish quotes.

Comparing this new text to our translation below, they appear to be substantively the same, but I wanted to provide links to the official English version now that it’s available.


Just a few minutes ago, Austen Ivereigh tweeted the text of a letter in Spanish from a Vatican official regarding the pope’s statements on homosexuality and same-sex civil unions in the documentary Francesco, writing,

The attached (in Spanish) was sent Oct 30 via a Latin-American nuncio at the request of Sec of State, to provide “some elements for a proper understanding of certain expressions of the Holy Father” in the Francesco doc.

He wrote in the preceding tweet:

Vatican’s Secretariat of State writes to bishops of the world (via nuncios) to brief them on Pope’s civil unions remarks, to show that they refer to “particular arrangements of the state” in respect of same-sex couples, and do not touch on “church doctrine”.

Presumably an official English version will be released at some point. In the meantime, here is our (unofficial) English translation of the text:


Some statements contained in the documentary Francisco by filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky, have provoked, in the past few days, a variety of reactions and interpretations. Therefore, we are offering some useful points of clarification, with the hope of—per his instruction—providing an adequate comprehension of the words of the Holy Father.

More than a year ago, during an interview, Pope Francis answered two different questions at two different times that, in the aforementioned documentary, were edited and published as a single answer without the proper contextualization, which has generated confusion. The Holy Father had first made a reference to the pastoral need that, within the family, a son or daughter with a homosexual orientation should never be discriminated against. These words refer to this: “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.”

The following paragraph of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia on Love in the Family (2016) can shed greater light on this statement:

“The Church makes her own the attitude of the Lord Jesus, who offers his boundless love to each person without exception. During the Synod, we discussed the situation of families whose members include persons who experience same-sex attraction, a situation not easy either for parents or for children. We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence. Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives” (AL 250).

A subsequent question from the interview was in reference to a ten-year-old local law in Argentina on “marriage equality of same-sex couples” and his opposition to them as the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires in this regard. To this end, Pope Francis has affirmed that “it is an incongruity to speak of homosexual marriage,” adding that­—in that in the same context—he had spoken about the rights of these people to have certain legal protection: “What we have to have is a civil union (convivencia civil) law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

The Holy Father expressed himself this way during an interview in 2014: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. Secular states want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation, pushed by the demand to regulate economic aspects between persons, such as ensuring health care. It is about pacts of cohabitating of various natures, of which I wouldn’t know how to list the different ways. One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety” (CNA Translation; for Zenit translation, click here).

Therefore, it is clear that Pope Francis was referring to certain provisions made by states, and certainly not to the doctrine of the Church, which he has reaffirmed numerous times over the years.

Here is the original Spanish text Austen posted on Twitter:

Image: Adobe Stock

Special thanks to Sam Rocha for help with the translation.

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

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