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.