Some gay Catholics and secular gay groups on Long Island praised Pope Francis's comments on homosexual priests Monday, while some conservatives said they thought the pontiff had done nothing to change official church doctrine condemning homosexual activity.
Speaking to journalists on his way back from a weeklong trip to Brazil, Francis responded to a question about gay priests by saying: "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge? We shouldn't marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society."
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Nicholas Coppola, a gay man who was ousted from his volunteer ministerial jobs at St. Anthony's parish in Oceanside earlier this year after he married another man in a civil ceremony, said he was elated by the pope's comments.
"I have never been this hopeful," Coppola said. "These words now need to be followed by actions, actions by the clergy and the bishops."
He added that he hoped Bishop William Murphy, spiritual leader of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, would intervene to have him reinstated at St. Anthony's. Murphy, through a spokesman, declined to comment on the pope's statements and referred questions to the bishops' national organization.
One Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. William Brisotti of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Roman Catholic Church in Wyandanch, said he found the pope's comments to be positive.
"I'm encouraged," said Brisotti, adding that the pope "is a very wise man."
"I think it will give encouragement to people to understand they are part of the church, they're part of God's creation," Brisotti said. "We have to find a better way of relating and reaching out to and embracing [gays] and not demanding people renounce what they know to be their nature."
David Kilmnick, chief executive of Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth, said he, too, was encouraged by Francis' comments -- to a point.
"I think it is certainly a step in the right direction," he said. "However, I think we should not be lulled into thinking this is going to change things for good."
He explained: "It's one thing to say you are not going to judge gay people. It's another thing to end discrimination. His statements give no indication of that whatsoever."
John Picciano, a Catholic lawyer from Westbury, said that while he agreed with the pope's stance to welcome gays into the church, that did not mean Francis -- or the Roman Catholic Church -- is now officially condoning homosexual activity.
He said those who believe the pope is opening the door to endorsing gay marriage, for instance, are mistaken.
"They are looking for something that they will never be allowed to have," Picciano said. "It's just not in the cards."