In its midterm report from the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, the Vatican declared that gay people have gifts to offer the Christian community and said accepting homosexuality is "an important educative challenge."
While the report encouraged Catholic Church leaders not to teach against Church doctrine, nor to allow "outside organizations [to] threaten the Church or its priests into changing their ideology," the Washington Times reports, the document's language was was hailed by Catholic gay-rights groups for its "less judgmental and more compassionate language than that seen in Vatican statements prior to the 2013 election of Pope Francis."
"Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home," the document said.
The synod, which includes more than 200 bishops, cardinals, priests, and lay people, also gave special attention to the children of same-sex couples, saying these "little ones must always be given priority."
The synod will continue to address divorce, annulment, and unmarried couples more in depth as it runs through Oct. 25.