(Photo Credits: Benhur Arcayan, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Pope Francis revealed that his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, supported his stance on civil partnerships for same-sex couples, according to excerpts from a forthcoming book set to be released in Spain, Reuters reports.

Although the book is scheduled for publication on Wednesday, details from its contents were disclosed in advance to various media outlets on Tuesday.

Pope Francis has reiterated the Catholic Church’s stance against LGBT marriages while emphasizing that same-sex couples deserve legal protection through civil union laws.

Throughout his 11-year papacy, Pope Francis has demonstrated a greater openness toward the LGBT community. However, his predecessor, the more conservative Benedict, was not widely regarded as supportive of this cause.

Despite their differences, Pope Francis disclosed that Pope Benedict defended him when a group of unnamed cardinals approached him to voice concerns about the pope’s views on civil partnerships, which they considered “heretical.”

Pope Francis said, “They showed up at his home to practically put me on trial and they accused me in front of him of backing same-sex marriage.”

Benedict XVI attentively listened and provided clarification to the concerned cardinals, affirming that Francis’ remarks on civil unions did not constitute heresy, the pope disclosed.

This revelation came to light in the Spanish-language book “Pope Francis. The Successor: My Memories of Benedict XVI,” which features interviews with journalist Javier Martinez-Brocal.

In February 2023, Pope Francis had previously mentioned Benedict’s dismissal of a complaint regarding his stance on civil unions, albeit with fewer specifics.

In December, Pope Francis stirred conservative controversy by permitting priests to bless same-sex couples, clarifying that this did not constitute official endorsement of non-heterosexual relationships.

There is no indication that Francis consulted with Benedict on this decision. Benedict, who unexpectedly retired in 2013, remained in the Vatican until his passing in late 2022.

In the book, Pope Francis refuted any suggestion of personal tensions with his predecessor during the unique “two popes” era.

He acknowledged experiencing challenges in his relationship with Benedict’s secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, particularly when Gaenswein published a critical book on Francis shortly after Benedict’s funeral.

Pope Francis said, “To publish a book that lays into me on the day of the funeral, telling things that are not true, is very sad.”

Pope Francis, now 87 and facing declining health, also talked about his funeral arrangements, expressing a desire to simplify burial rites for himself and future popes.

He outlined a departure from tradition, stating that the bodies of deceased popes would no longer lie in state before being placed in a coffin, a practice observed for Benedict and previous pontiffs. Read this story on Reuters in full here.

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