Jesus Christ would always help anyone find God, including homosexuals and people who have had gender reassignment surgery or who are considering it, Pope Francis has said.
"When a person who has this situation comes before Jesus, Jesus will surely not say: 'Go away because you're homosexual," Francis stated aboard a flight back to Rome on Sunday from a weekend visit to Azerbaijan and Georgia.'
"People must be accompanied, as Jesus accompanied," he told journalists on the flight, said Vatican Radio.
"Life is life and you must take things as they come.
"We must be attentive, not saying all are the same," he continued.
"Every case: Welcome it, accompany it, study it, discerning and integrating. This is what Jesus would do today," said the Pope.
Francis said that as a priest, bishop "and even as Pope", he has accompanied gay people in trying to help them get closer to God.
"I have accompanied people with homosexual tendencies and also with practices," said the pontiff.
"I have accompanied them, helped them get closer to the Lord; some could not, but I accompanied them and never abandoned anyone."
Francis was answering a question from a journalist about his frequent criticism of gender theory - broadly the concept that while a person may be biologically male or female, they have the right to identify as male, female, both or neither.
In remarks to Catholics in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia on Saturday, Francis said gender theory was part of a global war on traditional marriage and the family.