Speaking in the interview Francis said he was confident that, except for Africans, critics of his decision to allow blessings for same-sex couples would eventually understand it.
Blessings were allowed last month in a document titled Fiducia Supplicans (Supplicating Trust), which has caused widespread debate in the Catholic Church.
Strong resistance came from African bishops.
“Those who protest vehemently belong to small ideological groups,” Francis told Italian newspaper La Stampa, adding, “a special case are Africans: for them homosexuality is something ‘bad’ from a cultural point of view, they don’t tolerate it.”
“But in general, I trust that gradually everyone will be reassured by the spirit of the ‘Fiducia Supplicans’ declaration by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith: it aims to include, not divide,” he said.
Last week, Francis appeared to acknowledge the pushback the document received, especially in Africa where bishops have effectively rejected it and in some countries where same-sex relations can lead to prison or even the death penalty.
Francis said that when the blessings are given, priests should “naturally take into account the context, the sensitivities, the places where one lives and the most appropriate ways to do it.”
In the interview with La Stampa, the pope said he was not concerned about the risk of conservatives breaking away from the Catholic Church due to his reforms, saying that talk of a schism is always led by “small groups.”
“We must leave them to it and move on…and look forward,” he said.
Turning to Israel and the Palestinians, he said “true peace” between them will not materialize until a two-state solution is implemented and lamented that their conflict was widening.
Francis confirmed he is scheduled to meet the president of his native Argentina, Javier Milei, on February 11, and that finally visiting the country – where he has not returned since becoming pope in 2013 – is a possibility.
He said his agenda for 2024 currently includes trips to Belgium, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
Speaking about his health, which has taken some knocks in recent years with hospitalizations, mobility problems and cancelled trips or events, the 87-year-old said, “there are some aches and pains but it’s better now, I’m fine.”