SINGAPORE - Responding to reports that Pope Francis had endorsed same-sex civil unions in the new documentary Francesco, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore on Thursday (Oct 22) said the Catholic Church's stance on marriage remains unchanged.
Any comment made by Pope Francis that has been recorded in a documentary "is not considered or admissible as an official papal teaching", the Catholic Church of Singapore said in a statement.
It said the "Catholic understanding of marriage is defined as the sacrament by which a baptised man and a baptised woman bind themselves for life in lawful marriage".
This constant teaching on marriage "remains unchanged regardless of a civil union between two persons of the same sex approved by the state", the Church added.
"We do not know at the moment what the Holy Father actually said in the interview and the context of what he said," the Church said, adding that it has not had an official statement or communication from the Vatican.
"What is legal in society is not necessarily moral or licit for Catholics in the teaching of the Church."
Civil unions are legally recognised relationships that are granted similar legal rights to conventional marriages.
According to reports, Pope Francis had said in the documentary, which premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday (Oct 21): "Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it," he said.
"What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that," he said.
The Pope appeared to be referring to when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires and opposed legislation to approve same-sex marriages but supported some kind of legal protection for gay couples' rights.
The remarks have caused a firestorm, prompting praise from liberals and calls for urgent clarification from conservatives.
The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful but homosexual acts are. It teaches that homosexuals should be treated with dignity, but it is opposed to gay marriage.
After questions arose about the origins of the quote, a Mexican broadcaster on Thursday confirmed that Pope Francis' comments were made during a May 2019 interview that was never broadcast in its entirety.
The Pope was also seen to have used the Spanish-language phrase "convivencia civil" in the documentary, which is translated in subtitles as "civil union".
Some Spanish-speaking priests had said the media's translation of the phrase was inaccurate, and is actually better translated as "law of civil convivience" or "civil coexistence". This means that Pope Francis is talking about some kind of legal protection but not a homosexual civil union.
However, according to the Catholic News Agency, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, a long-time theological adviser to Pope Francis, clarified that the Pope's phrase is substantially equivalent to the phrase "civil union".
Archbishop Fernandez said this view reflects the Pope's stance as a bishop in Argentina that accepting civil unions might be a way to prevent the passage of same-sex marriage laws in the country.