Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of 1.2 Roman Catholics, has endorsed civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

According to multiple outlets, Francis made the comments in Francesco, a documentary on Pope Francis that premiered Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” Pope Francis said. “They're children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” he added.

Francis is opposed to marriage equality. He vehemently opposed the passage of an equal marriage bill in his native Argentina. The law passed in 2010.

Maryland-based New Ways Ministry, a group that represents LGBT Catholics, praised the pope's remarks.

“It will do so much good for the lives of LGBT people because, you know, religion, and Catholicism in particular, is often one of the biggest for fueling homophobia,” Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, told the AP.

DeBernardo added that he was surprised by the pope's endorsement. “I would never have expected a pope to make [such a statement] for a couple of generations at least,” he said.