Pope's statement on gays a challenge: Pinoy priest

By Kathlyn dela Cruz, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jul 31 2013 05:27 PM | Updated as of Aug 01 2013 01:27 AM

MANILA -- The Catholic Church should take as a challenge the statement of Pope Francis that it is not his place to judge gays, a Filipino priest said Wednesday.

In an interview with ANC Wednesday morning, Fr. Jerome Secillano, parish priest of Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro Parish in Sampaloc, Manila, said the challenge for the Catholic Church right now is to be more respectful of gay people although "not actually approving of their activities."

"The Pope has spoken. Let that be a challenge for us priests and for the Church as a whole to really take care of these people. They are after all human beings," Secillano said.

He explained that Pope Francis was just being "very compassionate, very kind and very charitable" when he issued that statement, noting that the Pope is still against the Vatican's reported gay lobby.

"[Pope Francis] was able to emphasize that he was...actually against lobbying but at the same time, he also emphasized that gay persons should be allowed to exist. They should be respected, not criticized and not judged," he said.

Acceptance of gay priests

Secillano said he also believes the Pope's remarks were not meant to be a "tacit approval" of gay people in the clergy.

"Regarding gay priests, if they are already in the ministry, we cannot do something anymore about that. They are there already," he said, noting that mechanisms should just be set up to make sure that these priests are doing their duties well in the ministry.

"But if you're asking me if it's a tacit approval of gay persons in the ministry, I don't think so," he added.

He said the only purpose of the Pope was to express the Church's understanding of the plight of gay people.

Rights of gay people

Meanwhile, Secillano said the Church should not be the only one held responsible for the protection of the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

He said the government should also have policies that would ensure the protection of gay people's rights.

This, following the statement of Jonas Bagas, a member of the LGBT community, that the Pope should have also apologized for the harm the Church has caused to them.

"If you're talking about protection of rights of the LGBT, I think it should not only be the Church who should be responsible in protecting their rights. We live in a community and I think this community is all the more responsible to protect and uphold the rights of these people," Secillano said.