He's got accounts on Twitter and Instagram, rocks out on Spotify and even promotes tolerance and kindness toward same-sex romantic relationships. In short, he's not like the other popes, he's a cool pope.
On April 12, Pope Francis released the Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love, in English), a 260-page document covering his views on family and relationships. He didn't break from essential Catholic doctrine, but he did gather these beliefs via talks and questionnaires with bishops as well as hundreds of Catholics around the world. There's a lot to digest in these pages, but a few of the major takeaways are:
1. Divorced or remarried individuals should be welcomed into the church
Traditionally, it was a major sin to break the holy bonds of matrimony, and divorced people weren't permitted to receive Communion. Now, he wrote, "They are not excommunicated, and they should not be treated as such, since they remain part of the ecclesial community."
2. There should be more equality between the sexes
He argued against really rigid gender roles, suggesting it would be an awful world if men were kept from, say, dancing – and women from leadership. "This, thank God, has changed, but in some places deficient notions still condition the legitimate freedom and hamper the authentic development of children's specific identity and potential." So go ahead and let your son paint his nails pink, in other words.
3. Unmarried couples shacking up are no longer "living in sin"
Pope Francis begged for tolerance of alternative lifestyles, saying Catholics "have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness."
4. Sex is the key to human happiness
He may have pledged a life of celibacy, but the guy still knows a lot about relationships. "God himself created sexuality, which is a marvelous gift to his creatures," he said. Then he went on to quote German philosopher Josef Pieper: Passion mixed with love "reveal[s] the marvels of which the human heart is capable. In this way, even momentarily, we can feel that 'life has turned out good and happy.'"
5. He still defines marriage as existing only between a man and a woman
"We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions for example, may not simply be equated with marriage," he wrote. He also emphasised the importance of one male and one female parent for a child's stable upbringing.
6. But he recommends respect and tolerance of same-sex romantic relationships
At the same time, he said that all gay people should be treated with respect and dignity and that discrimination should be avoided. "By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and growth," he concluded.