Pope Francis has said that he thinks gay couples should be allowed to have “civil unions”.
He made the comments, which observers say are his clearest remarks yet on gay relationships, in a documentary directed by Evgeny Afineevsky.
“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family,” he said in the film, which premiered on Wednesday.
“They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or made miserable over it.
“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”
He added that he “stood up for that”, apparently referring to his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires when, although opposing same-sex marriages in law, he supported some legal protections for same-sex couples.
The film Francesco, about the life and work of Pope Francis, premiered as part of the Rome Film Festival.
As well as the Pope’s comments on civil unions, the film also shows him encouraging two gay men to attend church with their three children.
Pope Francis’s biographer, Austen Ivereigh, told the media he was “not surprised” by the latest comments.
“This was his position as Archbishop of Buenos Aires,” said Mr Ivereigh. “He was always opposed to marriage being for same-sex couples. But he believed the church should advocate for a civil union law for gay couples to give them legal protection.”
Under current Catholic doctrine, gay relationships are referred to as “deviant behaviour”.
In 2003, the Vatican’s doctrinal body, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that “respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions”.