Pope Francis has endorsed same-sex civil unions for the first time as pope, signalling a dramatic shift from the Vatican's stance. 

The pope was interviewed for the feature-length documentary “Francesco,” which had its premiere at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday.

The papal thumbs up came midway through the film that delves into issues he cares about most, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.

“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis said in one of his sit-down interviews for the film.

“What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered... I stood up for that.”

His comments depart from the position of the Vatican’s doctrinal office and the pope’s predecessors on the issue.

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favor of civil unions as pope.

Director Evgeny Afineevsky had remarkable access to cardinals, the Vatican television archives and the pope himself. 

Also in the film, less than two weeks before the US presidential election, the pope condemns the Trump administration’s child separation policy at the US-Mexico border, which he calls “cruelty of the highest form.”

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