The Vatican says comments made by Pope Francis in support of same-sex civil unions have been taken out of context and don't mark a change in the Roman Catholic Church's stance on gays and lesbians and same-sex marriage.
Francis' remarks made headlines in October after they were featured in the documentary "Francesco" which premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Oct. 21. The pope emphasized his belief that homosexuals had a right to be in a family because they are "children of God."
Acknowledging the different interpretations and reactions triggered by Francis' apparent diversion from his predecessors, the Vatican's Secretary of State sent a clarification letter to its papal representatives to be shared with other church leaders to "favor an appropriate understanding of the words of the Holy Father."
The letter, which was disclosed by papal biographer Austen Ivereigh and confirmed Monday by a Vatican source, says two separate quotes in response to unrelated questions - asked at different moments - were spliced to appear as one and and also removed interceding context which has resulted in confusion.
Francis' "what we need is a civil union law" comment referred to his resistance to a same-sex marriage law in Argentina 10 years ago when Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Argentina was the first Latin American nation to legalize same-sex marriage.
According to documentary director Evgeny Afineevsky, Francis made the comments on civil unions directly to him - but it came out soon after that they were made during an interview with Mexico broadcaster Televisa last year.
"It's clear that Pope Francis was referring to certain provisions made by states and certainly not to the doctrine of the Catholic Church - which he has reaffirmed many times over the years," CNN quoted the letter as saying.
The Catholic Church teaches that gay and lesbian tendencies are not "sinful" but gay and lesbian acts are. It says gays and lesbians must be treated with respect.