Pope Francis on Sunday described the laws criminalising lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a 'sin' and an 'injustice'.
Pope Francis who made the remark when he was aboard the plane returning from a two-country trip to Africa said that God loves and accompanies people with same-sex attraction, according to Irish Times.
"The criminalisation of homosexuality is a problem that cannot be ignored," said Francis, who then cited unnamed statistics according to which 50 countries criminalise LGBT people "in one way or another" and about 10 others have laws including the death penalty for them.
"This is not right. Persons with homosexual tendencies are children of God. God loves them. God accompanies them ... condemning a person like this is a sin. Criminalising people with homosexual tendencies is an injustice," Francis said.
He noted that the Catholic Church's catechism, or book of teachings, says same-sex attraction is not a sin but homosexual acts are. It also says that LGBT people should not be marginalised.
Francis mentioned his now-famous phase from soon after he became pope in 2013 that he could not judge people with same-sex tendencies who are seeking God. He also noted that while visiting Ireland in 2018, he said that parents could not disown their LGBT children, but had to keep them in a loving family.
The pope made the trip to South Sudan, the second country on the tour, as a peace pilgrimage with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland Iain Greenshields.
Both Christian leaders were on the plane returning from there and participated in the pope's customary news conference with reporters, a first on any papal trip.
Both praised the pope's comments.
"I entirely agree with every word he said there," Welby said, noting that the Anglican communion was itself divided over gay rights and that two resolutions against criminalisation of LGBT people "have not really changed many people's minds".
Welby added: "I shall certainly quote the Holy Father. He said it so beautifully and accurately".
Expressing his own support of Francis, Greenshields referred to the Bible, saying: "There is nowhere in my reading of the four Gospels where I see Jesus turning anyone away. There is nowhere in the four Gospels that I see anything other than Jesus expressing love to whoever he meets and as Christians that is the only expression that we can give to any human being in any circumstance."
Francis repeated that the Catholic Church cannot permit sacramental marriage of same-sex couples but that he supported so-called civil union legislation giving same-sex couples legal protection in issues such as pensions, inheritance and health care.
Nigeria is one of the countries where same-sex relationship has been banned.
In 2014, the then President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill that criminalises same-sex relationships.
The bill contains penalties of up to 14 years in prison and bans gay marriage and same-sex "amorous relationships".
It also criminalises membership of gay rights groups.