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Pope criticizes countries with laws criminalizing homosexuality

Pope Francis criticized laws criminalizing homosexuality as "unjust," said God loves all his children as they are and called on Catholic bishops who support such laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the Church.

"Being homosexual is not a crime," Francis said during an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. Francis acknowledged that Catholic bishops in some parts of the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against the LGTBQ community.

However, he attributed those attitudes to cultural contexts and said bishops in particular must also go through a process of change to recognize the dignity of all.

"Also the bishop has a process of conversion," he said, adding that they should show "tenderness, please, tenderness, as God has with each one of us."

Some 67 countries or jurisdictions around the world criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations and 11 of them can or do apply the death penalty, according to The Human Dignity Trust, which works to end such laws. Experts say that even when the laws are not enforced, they contribute to harassment, stigmatization and violence against LGBTQ people.

Francis declared those rules "unjust" and said the Catholic Church can and must work to end them. "They have to do it, they have to do it," he said.

Francis cited the catechism of the Catholic Church to point out that homosexuals should be welcomed and respected, and should not be marginalized or discriminated against.

"We are all children of God and God wants us as we are and with the strength that we fight each one for our dignity," said Francis, who spoke to AP at the Vatican hotel where he lives.

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