"The criminalization of homosexuality is a problem that cannot be ignored," said Francis, who then cited unnamed statistics according to which 50 countries criminalize LGBT people "in one way or another" and about 10 others have laws including the death penalty for them.
Francis, who made his remarks in response to a reporter's question aboard the plane returning from a two-country trip to Africa, received full backing of his comments from two other Christian leaders on the plane with him.
"This is not right. Persons with homosexual tendencies are children of God. God loves them. God accompanies them ... condemning a person like this is a sin. Criminalizing people with homosexual tendencies is an injustice," Francis said.
Sixty-six U.N. member states continue to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations, according to data from ILGA World – the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. In several countries where same-sex relations are illegal, punishments can include a possible death penalty.