Pope Francis has praised the virtues of sex in a documentary released on Wednesday, describing it as "one of the beautiful things that God has given to the human person." The 86-year-old pontiff made the comment in the Disney+ production "The Pope Answers", which captures a meeting he had last year in Rome with 10 people in their early 20s.
Francis was quizzed by them on a variety of topics, including LGBT rights, abortion, the porn industry, sex, faith and sex abuse within the Catholic Church.
"To express yourself sexually is a richness. So anything that detracts from real sexual expression lessens you and depletes this richness," he said, referring to masturbation. Francis was also asked whether he knew what a "non-binary person" is, and he replied affirmatively. He repeated that LGBT people must be welcomed by the Catholic Church.
On abortion, Francis said priests should be "merciful" towards women who have terminated a pregnancy, but said the practice remains unacceptable.
"It is good to call things by their name. It is one thing to accompany the person who had one (abortion), quite another to justify the act," he said. The pope's remarks were published by L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, which described his conversation with the young people as an "open and sincere dialogue".