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Pope Francis once again tackles transgender issues, decries 'global war against the family'
Pope Francis speaks with journalists onboard the flight from Baku to Rome, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. Pope Francis praised Azerbaijan on Sunday as a model for a world divided by violent extremism, sidestepping criticism of the government for the sake of encouraging religious tolerance in an often-volatile region where Catholics are a minority. - photo by Billy Hallowell
Pope Francis called for respect for gays and transgender people Sunday after earlier warning clergy during his recent three-day trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan that teaching kids gender theory in schools constitutes a "global war" on marriage.

The pontiff later expanded upon his comments about the "global war against the family," telling reporters he believes teaching that people have the right to identify with an opposing biological gender is "against natural things," Reuters reported.

"What I was talking about was the nastiness that is present today in indoctrinating people in gender theory," Pope Francis said, sharing a story about a French man who told him that his little boy wanted to become a girl after learning about gender theory in a textbook.

The pontiff invoked a terminology he has used in the past while discussing the teaching of gender theory in schools "ideological colonization" and said it is wrong to use schools to change young people's minds about gender.

"It is one thing for a person to have this tendency, this option, and even change sex," Pope Francis said, according to Reuters. "But it is another thing to teach it, gender theory, in schools along these lines in order to change mentality."

Despite doubling down on recent proclamations about the teaching of transgender issues to kids, the pontiff also called for respect for gays and transgender people.

Compassion and mercy, he said, are essential in approaching the sensitive issues at hand, adding, "People must be accompanied just like Jesus accompanies them."

And Pope Francis said he's speaking from experience, as he has, over the years, ministered to people with same-sex tendencies even those who have not refrained from homosexual acts, and said he has "accompanied them" and tried to bring them closer to God.

"I accompanied them and I never abandoned one of them," he said. "That is a fact."

While these topics are certainly heavy and complex, Pope Francis did quip with reporters, asking journalists not to write stories saying he "blesses trans," as he jokingly anticipated the resulting headlines.

"Please dont say that the pope will sanctify trans (transgender people) because I read the headlines in the newspapers," he said, according to Crux.

As Deseret News previously reported, this isn't the first time Pope Francis has addressed these issues. He forcefully came out earlier this summer against teaching kids that "everyone can choose their gender."

He said at the time that it is "terrible" that schools are teaching this and that "very influential countries" are helping to redefine gender, and said that people are rejecting the structure through which God designed humanity.

"God created man and woman," Francis said at the time. "God created the world like this and we are doing the exact opposite."

He added, "We are living at a time when humankind as the image of God is being annihilated."

During comments made in 2015, Pope Francis also discussed his view on the importance of the "covenant between man and woman" a core tenet of humanity he believes was created by God.
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