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Pope Francis greets the pilgrims during his weekly general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on January 15, 2014.Giulio Napolitano /

Since the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, reporters around the world have been wondering where Pope Francis stands on the controversial language about homosexuality in the mid-term Synod report.  The opportunity to ask the pope directly came this Sunday on the now-customary return flight press conference as Pope Francis returned from his brief journey to Turkey.

The Associated Press’ Patricia Thomas was selected to ask the question for English-language journalists on the flight.  While Thomas herself wanted to ask another question, the majority of the English language reporters covering wanted to ask about the pope’s position on homosexuality despite the fact that Vatican press secretary Fr. Federico Lombardi told reporters they were only to ask about Turkey.

So she asked about the controversy over the Synod language regarding how the Church should treat homosexuals. She noted that the first document spoke very positively of homosexuals and of welcoming them.  She asked if the pope agreed with that language.

Thomas was referring to paragraph 50 from the Synod’s mid-term report, which states: “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing […] them […] a place of fellowship in our communities? Oftentimes, they want to encounter a Church which offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of this, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation…”

Pope Francis’ reply betrayed some frustration with the question as he first said that he wished the main theme of the news from the reporters would be the trip to Turkey.  He then said that he would answer the question.

His answer, however, was a lengthy explanation of the Synod process that never once addressed homosexuality.

The AP reporter later blogged about her experience:

I ended up irritating Father Lombardi by asking a question about the Synod and homosexuals instead of about the Turkey trip.  The Pope said he would take the question anyway and gave a long answer describing how the Synod is a process.  He said it is not a parliament and the process is still underway so he was not going to comment on the discussion or documents that have emerged so far.  Basically he did not answer my question, but he was warm, kindly and lengthy in his response. (He is a Jesuit and a natural politician).

See the full transcript of the return flight press conference (in Italian).