Philippine Archbishop Socrates Villegas has said homosexuality is not a sin ahead of the Pope’s first visit to the Catholic-majority country on Sunday (15 January).
The archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan made the comment today at a forum hosted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer at University of Santo Tomas in Manila.
‘Being a homosexual is not a sin. It is a state of a person,’ he said in response to a question about whether Pope Francis condemned homosexuality.
‘The Pope says, "The Lord came to die for all, homosexuals and lesbians included." There is no one excluded from the saving plan of God.’
Villegas is also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, the highest assembly of Catholic bishops in the Philippines, and his word carries a lot of weight in the southeast Asian nation.
The Philippines is the country with third largest number of Catholics with an estimated 75.5 million believers, or roughly 80% of the population.
The archbishop also called for gay and lesbian believers to embrace holiness.
‘God died for them also. God invites gays and the lesbians to go beyond their present situation and love Jesus,’ he said.