VATICAN CITY, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- The Catholic Church's leadership must respect and listen to the faithful who are gay, divorced or cohabitating, bishops at a Vatican City synod said Monday in a report.
The statement at the halfway point of a convocation of the world's Catholic bishops called by Pope Francis in not binding, suggests a less condemning attitude toward non-traditional unions in modern families may be forthcoming from the Catholic Church. While it still adhered to Catholic doctrine calling gay sex a sin and marriage permanent, bishops endorsed the report, called a "relation post disceptationem," and Vatican observers said the change in tone on the matters of homosexuality and cohabitation is remarkable.
It mentioned "courageous pastoral choices" and "new pastoral paths," as well as "serious reflection" on the topic of homosexuality.
"Homosexual persons have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community...often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home...are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?"
"The document published today by the synod of bishops represents an earthquake, the 'big one' that hit after months of smaller tremors. The document clearly reflects Pope Francis's desire to adopt a more merciful pastoral approach on marriage and family issues," wrote Catholic author John Thavis.
While some bishops supported the report's call for simplified ways of annulling marriages, others reportedly opposed the decidedly liberal tone of the statement.
The synod will continue until the weekend.