‘Conscientious objection a right’

The Pope said government officials have a “human right” to refuse to discharge a duty — such as issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples, if they feel it violates their conscience.

Speaking to reporters as he returned home from a 10-day trip to the US and Cuba, Pope Francis also repeated his condemnation of priests who had sexually abused children, saying the victims had been “crushed by evil”.

Although the Argentine-born pontiff delved into some of the US’ thorniest political debates during his visit, he never specifically referred to a controversy over same-sex marriages, which the Church firmly opposes.

On the flight back to Rome, he was asked if he supported individuals, including government officials, who refuse to abide by some laws, such as issuing marriage licences to gay people.

“Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right,” Francis said.

Earlier this month a city official in the US state of Kentucky, Kim Davis, went to jail because she refused to issue a marriage licence to a gay couple following a Supreme Court decision to make homosexual marriage legal.

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