South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit (R) meets with Pope Francis (L) at Presidential Palace in Juba, South Sudan on Friday. Photo by South Sudan Presidency Press Office /UPI | License Photo
Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Pope Francis pushed back against the condemnation of the gay community and anti-gay laws after visiting with African leaders on Sunday.
The Pope said it is a sin and injustice to treat people with "homosexual tendencies" poorly when interviewed during his flight from South Sudan, the Catholic News Agency reports.
"People with homosexual tendencies are children of God. God loves them. God accompanies them," he said. ""To condemn someone like this is a sin. Criminalizing people with homosexual tendencies is an injustice."
Same-sex acts are illegal in Sudan and South Sudan, and the LGBTQI community faces widespread discrimination. Punishment for violating anti-gay laws include lashing and the death penalty.
In all, the Pope spent six days in Africa, but the subject of homosexuality was quickly dismissed by African government and religious leaders.
Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla, archbishop of South Sudan's capital city Juba, said addressing the ill treatment of the gay community in the country is not a priority, The New York Times reports. He argued that he was not aware of anyone being imprisoned for homosexuality and asserted that each country should be allowed to address the subject as it chooses.
Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul of the Church of Sudan went a step further, stating that African churches "don't want it," according to The New York Times.
"We don't accept that one because it's not part of our life," he said. "The wickedness of a human cannot be considered as something to be discussed."
Pope Francis has been vocal about his support for the LGBTQ community for many years, sharing similar comments during a trip from Brazil in 2013. He referenced those comments, noting that if a person is a believer of God, he has no place to judge them.