Spiritual leaders in St. Pete respond to Pope Francis condoning same-sex civil unions

Pinellas County

ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – There’s a major shift from the Vatican on same-sex unions with the shift coming straight from the pope himself saying he condones same-sex civil unions.

Pope Francis endorsed same-sex civil unions for the first time as pope while being interviewed for the feature-length documentary “Francesco,” which had its premiere at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday.

Some in the Tampa Bay area said it’s a step in the right direction, but that he should have taken it one step further.

“LGTBQ people have been killed by the church historically, with the Holocaust they were right next to the Jews in being persecuted there,” said Reverend Andy Oliver, Pastor of Allendale United Methodist Church in St.Pete.

Reverend Andy Oliver said while the pope’s message condoning same-sex civil union is a step in the right direction, he wishes the pope commented about same-sex marriage.

“We would like the pope to come all the way and support same-sex marriage and affirm their gifts for ministry,” Reverend Andy Oliver said.

“I don’t believe Jesus would ever, ever turn someone away,” said Father Victor Ray, Pastor of St. Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Church in St.Pete.

Ray added as the pastor of an independent Catholic Church not affiliated with the Roman Diocese, the Pope’s message of inclusion is personal because he’s been in a same-sex partnership of 20 years.

“This is the stepping stone in which we will get there. But I will tell you, there will be unrest in the Catholic Church. There is a group of conservatives who do not like this Pope,” Father Victor Ray said.

“I’m proud, very proud,” said George Petit who identifies as a gay man.”I feel a lot of pride when leaders come out as humanitarians and as people that respect other people without condemning them based on what I consider to be nonsense… I have a lot of respect for him and feel proud of the fact that I live in a time where the Catholic church is evolving into a more tolerant institution.”

8 On Your Side reached out to the Catholic Dioceses of St.Pete for their reaction and were turned down a request for an on-camera interview but did receive a statement that reads in part:

“We will not have a comment on the report you inquired about until we have seen the documentary and the Pope’s remarks.”

Teresa Peterson, Diocese of St. Petersburg Executive Director of Communications

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