Govt. workers have right to refuse gay marriage licenses: pope

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Pope Wraps Up Historic U.S. Visit


Pope Francis said on Monday government officials have a "human right" to refuse to discharge a duty, such as issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals, if they feel it violates their conscience.

Speaking to reporters as he returned home from a 10-day trip to the United States and Cuba, Francis also repeated his condemnation of priests who had sexually abused children, saying the victims had been "crushed by evil".

SEE ALSO: Pope of the people, and the politics, in historic U.S. visit

Although the Argentine-born pontiff delved into some of the United States' thorniest political debates during his visit, he never specifically referred to a controversy over same-sex marriages, which the Church firmly opposes.

On the flight back to Rome, he was asked if he supported individuals, including government officials, who refuse to abide by some laws, such as issuing marriage licenses to gays.

"Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right," Francis said.

See more from the pope's visit to the United States:

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Pope's visit to the U.S. (Washington DC, New York, Philadelphia)
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Govt. workers have right to refuse gay marriage licenses: pope
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Mark Perez wears a button bearing the image of Pope Francis while waiting for him to arrive for a visit to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington September 24, 2015, in Washington, DC. The charity serves dinner to about 300 homeless people daily at the site, and it will serve a meal during the pope's visit. (Photo by David Goldman-Pool/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis visits Our Lady Queen of Angels School September 25, 2015 in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City. The pope is in New York on a two-day visit carrying out a number of engagements, including a papal motorcade through Central Park and celebrating Mass in Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Kena Betancur-Pool/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Pope Francis waves to the crowd gathered on the route to the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 26, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Pope is concluding his U.S. tour by spending two days in Philadelphia, having visited Washington D.C. and New York City. (Photo by Eric Thayer-Pool/Getty Images)
WYNNEWOOD, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis greets seminarians as he walks the loggia to his address to the Bishops at St. Martin of Tours Chapel at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, September 27, 2015 in Wynnewwod, Pennsylvania. After visiting Washington and New York City, Pope Francis concludes his tour of the U.S. with events in Philadelphia on Saturday and Sunday. ((Photo by Tom Gralish-Pool/Getty Images)
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Earlier this month a city official in the U.S. state of Kentucky, Kim Davis, went to jail because she refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple following a Supreme Court decision to make homosexual marriage legal.

Davis's case has taken on national significance in the 2016 presidential campaign, with one Republican contender, Mike Huckabee, holding rallies in favor of Davis, a Apostolic Christian, who has since joined the Republican party.

"I can't have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection but, yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right," he said, speaking in Italian.

"And if someone does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right," he added.

Francis said conscientious objection had to be respected in legal structures. "Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying: 'This right has merit, this one does not.'"

Related: Scenes from the Kim Davis case in Kentucky:

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The fight for marriage equality in Kentucky, County Clerk Kim Davis
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Govt. workers have right to refuse gay marriage licenses: pope
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: Michael Long (left) and Timothy Long, of Rowan County, raise their hands in front of a crowd of supporters after receiving their legal marriage license at the Rowan County Courthouse September 4, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian and a Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, citing religious objections. Davis was held in contempt of court and placed in Carter County jail on Thursday, September 3rd. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: A deputy clerk of the Clerk of Courts office fills out a marriage license for Timothy and Michael Long in the Rowan County Courthouse on Friday, September 4, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Michael and Timothy live in Rowan County Kentucky. Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian and a Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, citing religious objections. Davis was held in contempt of court and placed in Carter County jail on Thursday, September 3rd. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 14: Shannon (left) and Carmen Wampler-Collins walk out of the Rowan County Courthouse after receiving a legal marriage license from one of the Deputy Clerk of Courts September 14, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Rowan County clerk Kim Davis was jailed for disobeying a judge's order for denying marriage licenses to gay couples on the basis of her religious faith. Today was Davis' first day back to work, after being released from jail last week. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 4: Jesse Cruz receives a hug from a same sex marriage supporter after he and his partner, Robbie Blankenship, received their legal marriage license at the Rowan County Courthouse on September 4, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Blankenship and Cruz, of Columbus, Ohio, went to the Clerk of Courts office this past Wednesday and were denied a marriage license by the Rowan County Clerk of Courts Kim Davis.Davis, an Apostolic Christian and a Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, citing religious objections. Davis was held in contempt of court and placed in Carter County jail on Thursday, September 3rd. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: Michael Long and Timothy Long, of Rowan County, kiss in front of a crowd of supporters after receiving their legal marriage license at the Rowan County Courthouse September 4, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian and a Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, citing religious objections. Davis was held in contempt of court and placed in Carter County jail on Thursday, September 3rd. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 2: Robbie Blankenship (L) stands next to his partner of 20 years, Jesse Cruz, of Corpus Christie, Texas, as they speak with Rowan County Clerk of Courts Kim Davis at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Citing a sincere religious objection, Davis, an Apostolic Christian, has refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 2: Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, listens to Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz as they speak with her at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Citing a sincere religious objection, Davis, an Apostolic Christian, has refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 2: Robbie Blankenship (L) and his partner of 20 years, Jesse Cruz, of Corpus Christie, Texas, leave the Rowan County Clerks Office after being denied a marriage license on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Citing a sincere religious objection, Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, who is an Apostolic Christian, has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
ASHLAND, KY - SEPTEMBER 3: Same-sex marriage supports demonstrate on the steps of the federal courthouse during Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis's hearing on September 3, 2015 in Ashland, Kentucky. Davis was held in contempt of court today after refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: A same sex marriage supporter wears badges on the back of her back pack during a protest in front of the Rowan County Courthouse September 4, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian and a Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, citing religious objections. Davis was held in contempt of court and placed in Carter County jail on Thursday, September 3rd. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
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PRIESTLY BETRAYAL

In the hour-long, freewheeling talk that has become a trademark of his papacy, the pope returned to the problem of priestly abuse. On Sunday, he met five victims of sexual abuse and issued his most comprehensive condemnation of the crime.

On the plane, Francis said sexual abuse was not confined to the Church but it was worse when committed by men of religion.

"We know abuses are everywhere, in families, in the neighborhoods, in the schools, in the gyms, but when a priest abuses it is very grave because the vocation of the priest is to make that boy, that girl grow towards the love of God, toward maturity," he said.

"But instead (the victim) is crushed by evil and this is nearly a sacrilege because the priest has betrayed his vocation, the calling of the Lord," the pope said.

The pope had been fiercely criticized by abuse victims on Wednesday, after he initially addressed the scandal but did not utter the words "sexual abuse", and praised American bishops for their handling of the crisis.

Asked about barriers being but up in Europe to stop the influx of migrants, the pope said: "All walls collapse, today, tomorrow or after 100 years, but they will collapse. Walls are not a solution."

He said that while it was true that Europe was struggling in the face of a refugee crisis, the solution had to be found through dialogue. "Barriers last a short time or a long time, but the problem remains and with it, more hatred."

A reporter said the pope had become a "star" in the United States following his visit to Washington, New York and Philadelphia, and asked if this was good for the Church.

"The media uses this term, but there is another truth - how many stars have we seen go out and fall. It is a fleeting thing. Instead being a 'servant of the servants of God' does not pass," the pope said, referring to one of the titles of his office.

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