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Pope says same-sex declaration was 'misunderstood', defends the announcement

by Reuters Journalist

Pope Francis on Sunday defended a landmark decision approving blessings for same-sex couples, suggesting that those in the Catholic Church who have resisted it have jumped to "ugly conclusions" because they do not understand it.

In a television interview, Francis made his first public comments since the Dec. 18 declaration sparked widespread debate in the Church, with bishops in some countries, particularly in Africa, refusing to let their priests implement it.

"Sometimes decisions are not accepted, but in most cases when decisions are not accepted, it is because they are not understood," Francis said in response to a specific question about the December declaration.

"The danger is that if I don't like something and I put it (the opposition) in my heart, I become a resistance and jump to ugly conclusions," he said during a link from his Vatican residence with the "Che Tempo Che Fa" program on Italy's Channel 9.

"This is what happened with these latest decisions on blessings for all," he said, referring to the declaration known by its Latin title Fiducia Supplicans (Supplicating Trust). It was issued by the Vatican's doctrinal department and approved by him.

Since the original declaration, the Vatican has been at pains to stress that the blessings did not amount to an approval of gay sex and should not be seen as anything remotely equivalent to the sacrament of marriage for heterosexual couples.

But even a clarification earlier this month from the Vatican's doctrinal department did not sway bishops in Africa, where in some countries same-sex activity can lead to prison or even the death penalty.

They issued a letter last week saying the December declaration had caused "unrest in the minds of many" and could not be applied because of the continent's cultural context.

Some bishops in France told their priests they could bless gay individuals but not couples.

The Church teaches that gay sex is sinful and disordered and people with same-sex attractions should try to be chaste and the pope appeared to be alluding to this is his response.

"The Lord blesses everyone," Francis said. "But then people have to enter into a dialogue with the blessing of the Lord and see the path that the Lord proposes. We (the Church) have to take them by the hand and lead them along that path and not condemn them from the start".

Since his election in 2013, Francis has tried to make the Church, with its 1.35 billion members, more welcoming to LGBT people, without changing moral doctrine.

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