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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis is marking the 10th anniversary of his pontificate with a string of controversial comments to the press.
Delivering a flurry of six interviews in two days, Francis affirmed admitting celibate homosexuals to communion, asked pagans to send him "good vibes" as prayers, said that mandatory priestly celibacy could be jettisoned and acknowledged that Pope John Paul II had covered up sex abuse.
On Monday, the day of his anniversary, Francis offered Mass with select cardinals in the chapel of the Vatican's Casa Santa Marta, where he has lived since his election in 2013.
"Sometimes celibacy can lead you to machismo," Francis remarked in an interview with the Argentinian news portal Infobae, during which he discussed the possibility of making celibacy optional for priests in the Latin Rite Church.
"There is no contradiction for a priest to marry. Celibacy in the Western Church is a temporary prescription: I do not know if it is settled in one way or another, but it is temporary in this sense," Francis explained.
"Celibacy is a discipline," the pope clarified. "It is not eternal like priestly ordination, which is forever, whether you like it or not. Whether you leave or not is another matter, but it [ordination] is forever."
Francis agreed that celibacy "could be reviewed," citing the example of Catholic priests in the Eastern Rite and adding that earlier that day he had met with a married Eastern Catholic priest who has a wife and son and works in the Roman Curia.
"Yes, yes. In fact, everyone in the Eastern Church is married. Or those who want to. There they make a choice. Before ordination there is the choice to marry or to be celibate," the pope remarked.
Concerning those who have "the choice or sexual preference" for homosexuality, Infobae asked Francis if they would be permitted to receive Holy Communion if they "complied with the rest of what the Church mandates."
The pope recounted three previous interviews in which he had stated his position on "people with homosexual tendencies" and said, "The big answer was given by Jesus: Everybody. Everybody. Everyone inside."
"When the exquisite ones did not want to go to the banquet: Go there to the crossroads and call everyone," Francis emphasized. "Good, bad, old, young, young men, young boys: everybody. Everybody. And each one resolves his positions before the Lord with the strength he has."
"This is a church of sinners. I don't know where the church of saints is; here we are all sinners. And who am I to judge a person if he has good will? If he's more of the devil's gang, well, let's defend a little," Francis continued. "But today a lot of magnifying glass is put on this problem."
"I think we must go to the essentials of the gospel: Jesus calls everyone and each one resolves his relationship with God as he can or as he wants. Sometimes [one] wants and cannot, but the Lord always waits," he observed.
"We cannot reduce a human situation to a prescriptive one," Francis stated when asked about admitting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to Holy Communion. "I advise separated couples to go to their bishop, to go and present their situation to him."
In an interview with Italian Swiss Radio and Television broadcasted on Sunday, Francis was asked why he always asks people to pray for him when he greets them.
"I am sure everyone prays," the pope replied. "To the nonbelievers, I say: Pray for me, and if you don't pray, send me good vibes. An atheist friend writes to me: '... and I send you good vibes.' It is a pagan way of praying, but it is a loving way. And to love someone is a prayer."
Francis defended playing down Pope Benedict XVI's funeral by noting that "it was challenging for the masters of the apostolic ceremonies to organize the funeral of a non-reigning pope."
"It was difficult to make a difference," the pontiff reiterated. "I have now told them to study the ceremony for the funerals of future popes, of all popes. They are studying and also simplifying things a little, removing the things that liturgically are not correct."
On Friday, speaking to La Nacion, Francis lambasted "gender ideology" as "one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations" of the day.
"Why is it dangerous?" the pope asked. "Because it blurs differences and the value of men and women."
"It is extremely dangerous because it annuls differences, and it annuls humanity, the richness of humanity, personal type, as cultural and social, the differences and the tensions between the differences," Francis warned.
"All humanity is the tension of differences. It is to grow through the tension of differences. The question of gender is diluting the differences and making the world the same, all dull, all alike, and that is contrary to the human vocation," Francis explained.
"There are somewhat naive people who believe that it is the path of progress and do not distinguish what is respect for sexual diversity or various sexual options from what is already an anthropology of gender," the pontiff noted.
When asked about the recent news reports on Pope John Paul II covering up sex abuse, Francis replied, "At that time, everything was covered. ... I don't know the case, but it was usual. To cover it up or when it was seen that it had no remedy was to send it out. Cover."
La Nacion asked the pope if "there is anything you did in these ten years as pope that has made you especially happy." Francis replied, "Everything that was in the pastoral line of forgiveness and understanding of the people. Give place in the Church to all."
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