PALM DESERT, Calif. - A big development for the gay and lesbian community, the Pope says people who are gay are our brothers. The head of the historically anti-homosexuality church says who is he to judge a gay person who follows God. The affects of his comments are being felt around the world and right here in the Desert.
The last few days, the head of the Catholic Church celebrated World Youth Day with millions of followers in Brazil. On the flight back to the Vatican, the Pope had an unusually candid conversation with reporters.
"If a person is gay and accepts the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge them?" said Pope Francis.
His comments are a stark contrast from his papal predecessor who banned gay priests.
"I think it's larger than the right to married to be honest," said John Biron.
John Biron, a gay man, grew up in the Catholic Church. "I think it's really brave and pretty incredible. For so long, people in the gay community have felt that they lack the support of the administration of the Catholic Church," said Biron.
"I think it's long over due," said Joel Greco.
"That was a terrific thing frankly to hear." said Father Howard Lincoln of Sacred Heart.
Father Lincoln went to Brazil for the Pope's trip and says the Holy Father's statement is right inline with church doctrine.
"Everyone is a unique loving creation of God, and that everyone must be treated with kindness and love and dignity and respect," said Father Lincoln.
Father Lincoln says the Pope is reinforcing the idea that everyone is welcome in the church.
"I think people welcome this message, I think people welcome a Pope who is addressing very real present day issues in the world with very real and direct answers," said Father Lincoln.
But acceptance doesn't mean marriage.
"We believe that marriage is an institution that is authored by God, not by men and women and that God intends marriage just for men and women. However, that is not to remotely detract from the fact that everyone is a unique loving creation of God and everyone must be treated with that love that dignity or respect that being made in the image of God demands," said Father Lincoln.
Biron hopes Pope Francis's comments will open the door for other conservative groups to follow suit.
"It makes it more open to at least have a dialog about it and I think that is the healthy thing, even with disagreements with individuals as long as we can talk about it and agree to disagree than we can meet in the spirit of kindness and understanding," said Biron.
Pope Francis also called for more compassion and accepting for women and the divorced in the church.