"Speaking to reporters on a flight in 2013, Pope Francis outlined a new tone on the Catholic church’s stand on homosexuality. 'If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge?' he asked. As Parliament readies to discuss the issue of repealing Section 377, Indian religious leaders have tended to disagree. But Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay and the head of India’s National Conference of Catholic Bishops, emerged as a progressive voice.
The Hindu spoke to the cardinal on his involvement with the movement to decriminalise homosexuality and his thoughts on how the Church can encourage a more humane approach. In the midst of a debate on whether homosexuality should be considered a criminal act, he was the only religious leader who spoke out against such a move, arguing that the Church should embrace people from the LGBT community and help integrate them into society.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has recently said that Parliament may consider taking up the discussion on Sec 377 and Shashi Tharoor is planning to pass a private member’s Bill on the same. Can you reflect on your own involvement with this issue?
I had been reflecting on the question of whether the church should be more welcoming towards members of the LGBT community for some time. I met some groups and associations of LGBTs and I had an understanding for them. I don’t want them to feel ostracised. That’s why I came out publicly some time back saying I was in favour of decriminalisation of Section 377. When the Delhi High Court order was passed decriminalising homosexuality, they asked me whether the Church would be unhappy and I said
'No. I think it’s a good thing.'"
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