Oct. 21 (UPI) -- In a new documentary Wednesday, Pope Francis said he supports civil union laws for same-sex couples -- a public departure from the Vatican's doctrinal office and the views of past pontiffs on the issue.
The pope voiced support for same-sex unions in the biographical film Francisco, which premiered Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival.
"Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family," Pope Francis says in the film. "They're children of God and have a right to a family."
"What we have to create is a civil union law," he added. "That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that."
The documentary examines the pope's advocacy for migrants and refugees, the poor, his work on addressing the church's clerical sexual abuse scandal and the role of women in society.
Biographer Sergio Rubin said when Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina, he'd expressed support for civil unions as an alternative to same-sex marriage. His remarks in the documentary are his clearest to date on the subject and his first since he became pope in 2013.
"I think it's a big step forward," said Rev. James Martin, a priest who has supported LGBT members. "In the past, even civil unions were frowned upon in many quarters of the church. He is putting his weight behind legal recognition of same-sex civil unions."
Tuesday, Pope Francis met with other religious leaders in Rome and committed to world peace amid a pandemic and a polarized political climate.
The pontiff participated in the inter-religious Meeting for Peace on Rome's Capitoline Hill where he said the world has "a profound thirst for peace."
"We need peace. More peace," he said. "We cannot remain indifferent."
Francis said suffering caused by war has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and no access to healthcare in some countries.
The pope added that God will hold accountable those who do not seek peace.
"We have gathered ... to send a message of peace," he said. "To show clearly that the religious do not want war and, indeed, disown those who would enshrine violence. That they ask everyone to pray for reconciliation and to strive to enable fraternity to pave new paths of hope."
Francis also participated in an ecumenical prayer service at the Basilica of Saint Mary Tuesday.