Pope Francis has spoken out against “unjust” laws that criminalise homosexuality, instead referring to it as a “sin”.

“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” he told the Associated Press.

The 86-year-old proceeded to acknowledge that there are still Catholic bishops who support anti-LGBTQ+ laws and opted to refer to it as a “sin”.

“These bishops have to have a process of conversion,” he further explained, before stating that they should practise “tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us.”

Around 67 countries or jurisdictions still criminalise consensual same-sex activity.

In many countries, these are not enforced but can contribute to harassment and/or discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.

“God is Father and he does not disown any of his children”

Francis’ words follow him previously telling gay, lesbian and bisexual people that they have the right to be accepted by their families.

Despite this, the Pope previously said that the Catholic Church cannot support same-sex marriage in the way it does with heterosexuals.

Instead, he explained that it can support secular civil union laws so that gay couples can have joint rights.

READ MORE: Pope Francis tells LGBTQ+ people that God “does not disown any of his children”

When asked what the most important thing LGBTQ+ people should know about God is, he stated: “God is Father and he does not disown any of his children. And ‘the style’ of God is ‘closeness, mercy and tenderness.’ Along this path you will find God.”

In 2021, the Vatican also banned priests from blessing same-sex marriages – though some clergy members have instead opted to bless unions.