Pope Francis has said that gays should “have the opportunity to marry” and “can be the husband and the wife of any other persons.”
The pope’s comments were made during a public audience at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Sunday night, but they also come as gay marriage has gained ground in the Vatican.
Francis told the faithful that gay couples have a “right to marry,” and that the church “will continue to be a house of prayer for the whole of humanity” if gay couples want to “live and love in harmony with one another.”
The pontiff also said that “those who do not respect the dignity of others cannot be in the Church.”
Pope Francis made his remarks at the end of a two-hour address at St, Peter’s, in Rome.
The Vatican is the first of several Catholic countries to legalize gay marriage.
The pontiffs speech came after the Vatican’s top court last week refused to uphold a lower court ruling that allowed same-sex marriage in the United States.
More on same-gender marriage: Gay marriage could happen in Utah in the coming months if a federal judge approves itA Utah judge will likely rule on the issue on June 8.
A federal judge in Salt Lake City has already ruled that gay marriage in Utah is legal.
But the Utah case will be the first to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the justices may take up the case later this year.
In a separate development, the Catholic bishops have asked the Vatican to reconsider its position that same-gendered relationships are not in keeping with Catholic teaching.
The bishops also said in a letter that the Vatican “should reconsider its opposition to marriage as a sacrament, and consider all possible options” to help the church better address the growing issue of same- gender unions.
“While the Vatican must respond to this call, it must also take seriously the need to avoid the negative consequences of its inaction on this issue,” the bishops wrote.
This story has been updated.