Pope Francis says he won't judge gay priests

Pope Francis is reaching out to gays, saying he won

Pope Francis waves as he arrives in St. Peter's Square for his inauguration Mass at the Vatican, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

ABOARD THE PAPAL AIRCRAFT (AP) -- Pope Francis is reaching out to gays, saying he won't judge priests for their sexual orientation, in a remarkably open and wide-ranging news conference as he returns from his first foreign trip.

Francis says: "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"

His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, authored a document that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests. Francis is being much more conciliatory, saying gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.

His remarks came Monday during a plane journey back to the Vatican from his first foreign trip in Brazil.

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