For the first time, Pope Francis has declared his support for same-sex civil unions, according to the Catholic News Agency.

In the documentary Francesco, which first premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday (October 21) and then in North America at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival on Sunday (October 25), Pope Francis called for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples.

“Homosexuals have a right to be part of the family,” he said in the film. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it.”

“What we have to create is a civil union law,” he continued. “That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

While Francis has suggested before that he wasn’t opposed to civil unions, this is the first time he, as Pope, has directly come out in support of them, according to CNN. His support represents a shift in perspective from his predecessor Benedict XVI, who labeled homosexuality as “an intrinsic moral evil.”

Unsurprisingly, the Pope’s support has sparked controversy among other Catholic leadership.

“The Church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships,” Bishop Thomas Tobin of Rhode Island said in a statement. “Individuals with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God and must have their personal human rights and civil rights recognized and protected by law. However, the legalization of their civil unions, which seek to simulate holy matrimony, is not admissible.”

However, not everyone is in opposition to the Pope’s claims. Jesuit Father James Martin told CNN reported Christiane Amanpour that his comments are “momentous.”

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