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Pope Francis: 'Who am I to judge' gay people?

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Pope Francis speaks during a news conference on his flight back from Brazil. Pope Francis speaks during a news conference on his flight back from Brazil.

By Anne Thompson and Henry Austin, NBC News

(NBC) - Pope Francis on Monday said "who am I to judge?" gay people as he discussed one of the most divisive issues affecting the Catholic Church.  

"I have yet to find anyone who has a business card that says he is gay," the pontiff said at a press conference on his plane while returning from Brazil, where he talked about a number of subjects.  

"They say they exist. If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?" he added.  

The official position of the Catholic Church on the issue is that while homosexual desires or attractions are not in themselves sinful, the physical acts are.

The Pope said he had stayed away from the issue of gay marriage and also abortion on his week-long trip to Brazil because he wanted to stay positive.

Francis discussed a range of issues during the press conference, admitting that the church had not done enough to develop "the theology of women in the church."

He said that the church had spoken on the issue of women priests and expressed itself clearly on the issue of abortion, but he added that important female biblical figures had 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."

History's first Latin American pope said he was "pretty tired" but with a happy heart after his first overseas trip, adding that he was amazed at the number of people who turned out, especially the three million who jammed Copacabana Beach for Sunday's Mass.

He added that he was unconcerned by the tumultuous start to the trip that included the discovery of a bomb at a shrine he is due to visit and the mob scene that took place when his driver inadvertently made wrong turn.

"There's always the danger of a crazy person, but there is also the Lord," he said. "This being close is good for everyone."

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