Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Rome June 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Time and again, as I’ve blogged so many times over the last few years, Pope Francis has done things and made comments that one would never have expected from any of his predecessors. Well, he did it again, this time aboard his plane returning from a trip to Armenia. As the Catholic News Agency reports, his remarks were wide-ranging, and — I expect — will touch off more than one controversy (WebCite cached article):

Catholics and other Christians not only must apologize to the gay community, they must ask forgiveness of God for ways they have discriminated against homosexual persons or fostered hostility toward them, Pope Francis said.

“I think the church not only must say it is sorry to the gay person it has offended, but also to the poor, to exploited women” and anyone whom the church did not defend when it could, he told reporters June 26.…

At the mention of the massacre in early June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Pope Francis closed his eyes as if in pain and shook his head in dismay.

“The church must say it is sorry for not having behaved as it should many times, many times — when I say the ‘church,’ I mean we Christians because the church is holy; we are the sinners,” the pope said. “We Christians must say we are sorry.”

Changing what he had said in the past to the plural “we,” Pope Francis said that a gay person, “who has good will and is seeking God, who are we to judge him?”

Surely someone out there will say the Pope was “blaming” the Pulse nightclub massacre on Catholics or Christians; if one actually pays attention to what he said, though, that’s not it. He’s pointing out only that Christianity has contributed to an atmosphere of hatred for gays. That’s a long way — a very long way! — from saying that Christendom collectively conspired to massacre gays in Orlando FL. The two are, quite simply, not even close to the same thing.

I note, too, that the Pope explicitly said that all Christians, not just Catholics, should apologize to gays for marginalizing them. This is a departure from other similar comments in which a pope or other Catholic leader spoke only on behalf of his own Church and what it or its followers had done. On this occasion, Francis said, the apology must come from other sects than just Catholicism. I’m not sure many Christians from other sects — even those who otherwise profess respect for Pope Francis — will appreciate him having said this.

The Pope also veered away from potentially ordaining women as deacons:

As he did at the meeting with the superiors, Pope Francis told the reporters that his understanding was that women deacons in the early church assisted bishops with the baptism and anointing of women, but did not have a role like Catholic deacons do today.

In addition, while he’d been in Armenia, Francis had doubled down on his prior use of the word “genocide” to describe Turkey’s atrocities against ethnic Armenians during World War I. He explained this, too, during his return flight:

He used the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-18 because that was the word commonly used in his native Argentina and he had already used it publicly a year ago. Although he said he knew Turkey objects to use of the term, “it would have sounded strange” not to use it in Armenia.

The Turkish government reacted as childishly as one would expect. As Reuters reports via the Religion News Service, they shot back by accusing the Pope of being a crusader (cached):

A Turkish deputy prime minister said on Saturday (June 25) that it was “unfortunate” that Pope Francis had labeled the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide, and that it reflected the papacy’s “Crusader mentality.”

References to “crusading” are among the worst pejoratives found in the Islamic world, even if it is juvenile name-calling. As I’ve blogged previously, it’s long past time for Turks and the Turkish government to fucking grow the hell up already and stop throwing tantrums every time someone calls the Armenian Genocide a “genocide.” That’s what it was … and the Turks should act like adults and just deal with it, fercryinoutloud.

Photo credit: Paul Haring/CNS.

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