Pope Francis is listening to what Catholics around the world want when it comes to the LGBTQI community, former President Mary McAleese has said.
The Pope suggested there could be ways to bless same-sex unions in a letter published by The Vatican on Monday.
He was responding to five conservative cardinals who challenged him to affirm Church teaching on homosexuality ahead of a big meeting - or Synod - near Rome, where LGBT Catholics are on the agenda.
Mrs McAleese told Newstalk Breakfast the Pope's apparent shift in policy is to be welcomed.
"I'm very encouraged by it because it's a sure sign, a very important sign, that he's listening to all the word that is coming back from five continents," she said.
"From the five continents, there has come a huge consensus around this issue; people want the Church teaching on LGBTIQ completely changed.
"They're not happy with it, they don't think that it's acceptable [and] they want it changed.
"In many ways, the Pope's recent words... are in complete contradiction, may I say, to what he was saying in March of 2021 - when he emphatically ruled out blessing for gay Catholic marriages.
"He also, of course, went on to say in that document... that married gay Catholics were not capable of receiving or expressing God's grace.
"There was a ferocious reaction among the faithful to that."
'This is good news'
Mrs McAleese said the change seems to hand a victory to Ireland and Germany.
"The fact that the Pope has softened his cough on this, in many ways, it's game set and match to the German Synod - which insisted he was wrong on this - and the Irish Synod which has one of the most influential documents on LGBTI Catholics," she said.
"That document, which went viral right around the world, our own Irish Church talked about its visceral clarity.
"Clearly, in fairness to Pope Francis, he has listened."
Mrs McAleese said she believes the Pope is doing the right thing.
"In many ways, Pope Francis is catching up with the posse that's already out and abroad in the Church, and doing the right thing," she said.
"So, this is good news.
"He's sending a message to the Synod that doors that appeared to be closed back in 2021 have now been opened.
"The truth is they have been pushed open and shoved open by the faithful.
"This is not gay marriage in the Catholic Church; it's simply people who are already married, who are Catholic, who want to live within the Church asking for a blessing.
"The Church in the West, it's in terminal decline.
"The Pope's response to this issue is an example of a man who, in a sense, has seen the writing on the wall," she added.
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