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In a dramatic shift in tone, a Vatican document said Monday that homosexuals had "gifts and qualities to offer" and asked if Catholicism could accept gays and recognize positive aspects of same-sex couples. Roman Catholic gay rights groups around the world hailed the paper as a breakthrough, but Church conservatives called it a betrayal of traditional family values.
The document, prepared after a week-long Synod on the family attended by some 200 bishops, said the Church should challenge itself to find "a fraternal space" for homosexuals without compromising Catholic doctrine on family and matrimony. While the text did not signal any change in the Church's condemnation of homosexual acts or gay marriage, it used less judgmental and more compassionate language than that seen in Vatican statements prior to the 2013 election of Pope Francis.
"Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home," said the document, known by its Latin name "relatio".
New Ways Ministry, a leading U.S. Catholic gay rights group, called it a "major step forward", praising it for being devoid of the "major gloom and doom and apocalyptic horror" that accompanied past Vatican pronouncements on homosexuals.
But John Smeaton, co-founder of the conservative group Voice of the Family, said: "Those who are controlling the synod have betrayed Catholic parents worldwide." He called it "one of the worst official documents drafted in Church history".
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