Sitting on a sleeping chair in his residence, the documentary showed Francis saying that gay people were “children of God”. “You can’t drive someone out of the family, nor make your life miserable for it,” he said. “We have a civil union law, that way they are legally covered.”
Primarily, this deviation from church doctrine influenced liberal Catholics and LGBT activists, and Catholic conservatives. But the issue was not entirely new to Francis. He had already expressed support for gay civil unions when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, but only as an alternative to gay marriage. This was the first time a pope had spoken publicly in support of such a controversial issue.
The 20-second clip in question, however, did not just raise eyebrows. This also aroused suspicion. The setting, framing, and lighting – even the slightest-position of the Pope’s pectoral cross – appeared similar to those in an interview by Vatican reporter Valentina Aljraki a year and a half ago for Mexican broadcaster Televisa. However, that broadcast did not contain explosive comments, nor was there an official Vatican transcript of the interview.
But there was no clue in the Vatican transcript. Although no call for civil unions could be detected, the pope actually said other phrases. But there was an important difference: He did not speak them consistently, and he was referring to the right of gay people to be accepted into their own families. The documentary “Francesco” now presented these comments as a harmonious whole in support of gay civil unions.
The Vatican press office did not respond to requests for clarity, as the plot revolved. Meanwhile the film’s director – Oscar-nominated Evgeny Afinevski – insisted that he conducted his interview with the pope.
Finally, late Thursday night, Televisa confirmed that Francis had indeed made the remarks of civil unions to return their correspondent in May 2019. In addition, the broadcaster suggested that they had cut them from the final edit because they were not considered new. “The mention of unions among people of the same sex was already mentioned by the Pope on other occasions before our interview in 2019,” Televisa said in a statement to the Associated Press.
But the intrigue did not end there. The papal interview was shot with Vatican cameras, as is customary. Sources in Televisa told several media outlets that the raw footage they had received from the Vatican did not include footage supporting gay civil unions. This raises the question: The comments were removed from the last broadcast of Televisa, but by whom? Did the Mexican broadcaster cut him, or was the Vatican ousted him in 2019, only to make him available to Afinevski later?
Ultimately, the mysteries surrounding what the footage comments prove do not diminish their importance. So far, the Vatican has not disputed the film’s content, thus allowing the Pope’s comments to stand out accurately. Vatican officials were present at the time of the film’s launch, and the filmmaker says that Pope himself has seen parts of the documentary.
Human Rights Watch praised Francis, saying that his call for legal protection for same-sex couples would spur movements in countries such as Poland and the Philippines, mainly in Catholic countries where same-sex couples were allowed under the law There is a lack of basic recognition.
On the other hand, Orthodox Catholics said that these comments caused confusion among the faithful. Conservative US Cardinal Raymond Burke, a frequent critic of Francis, said the comment was “contrary to the teaching of sacred scripture and sacred tradition,” he wrote in a statement. “They cause surprise and error about the teaching of the Church among people of good will,” he said, and are by no means binding to Catholics.