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Answering questions about the Catholic Church while visiting Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis said women need to have an equal role in the church, though did not address the idea of female priests. And when asked about gay people, the pontiff responded, “Who am I to judge?”

Latinos react to Pope’s comments on gay priests: “Who am I to judge?”

Pope Francis wasted no time in voicing his opinion on gay priests. While on a plane flying back to the Vatican from his first foreign trip in Brazil — where he addressed 3 million youth in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for World Youth Day — he said, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

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His first news conference lasted almost an hour and a half, and The Associated Press reported the Pope was funny and candid as he openly answered reporters’ questions.

He even responded to reports that a trusted monsignor was involved in an alleged gay tryst about 10 years ago. The Pope had said he investigated the allegations, according to canon law, and found nothing to back them up. He also added that when someone sins and confesses, God not only forgives but forgets.

“We don’t have the right to not forget,” he said.

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In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI signed a Vatican document  that said men with homosexual tendencies should not be priests. The official position of the Catholic Church is that while homosexual desires or attractions are not in themselves sinful, the physical acts are — all priests take a vow of celibacy when they become members of the clergy. Could remarks made by Pope Francis potentially change the Catholic’s church approach to homosexuality among priests?

Dr. Hosffman Ospino, director of graduate programs in Hispanic ministry in Boston College says not necessarily, when it comes to doctrine.

“The doctrine of the Catholic Church has been consistent,” says Dr. Ospino. “I think the biggest change is the attitude and the tone. It is a more welcoming tone to talk about these issues, and he’s using language that reaches out to young people. These are the concerns that young people are having. The Catholic Church has a very clear moral teaching, but a truly Catholic attitude is one of welcoming and respect.”

According to NBC News, Pope Francis also discussed other issues during the press conference such as the role of women in the church, expressing that important female biblical figures have been overlooked.

“Mary is more important than the apostles,” he said. “One must think about women in the church. We have not done enough theology on this.”

Rosa Manriquez, a Chicana in Los Angeles who advocates for allowing women like herself to become ordained priests in the Catholic Church says this brings her lots of hope.

“Like a pastor, he’s gotten to know people, and he’s gotten to know gay priests,” says Manriquez. “What I am hopeful about is that in that spirit, I hope he also gets to know women in the Church, as well as the gay community — the families and partners of gay people.  I’m hopeful he’ll get to know women who want to ordained in the priesthood. I think as he gets to know them, there will be more inclusiveness. I hope he has set an example for all priests that we have to get to know each other and put aside our judgments and bring out true, inclusive, unconditional love.”

RELATED: After woman priest ordained, a Chicana hopes she’s next

Liliana Llamas contributed to this report. 

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