NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In a dramatic shift from Roman Catholic church teachings, Pope Francis has endorsed same-sex civil unions for the first time as pontiff.

In the new documentary film “Francesco,” which premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday, but has not yet been released internationally, the pope endorsed gay civil unions.

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“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” the pope said.

This is the first time Pope Francis has made such a clear public statement. He had expressed support for civil unions for same-sex couples when he was archbishop, but never as pontiff, until now.

His comments made waves around the world and here at home.

“It’s exciting. I grew up as a Catholic and I have since … I’m still faithful, but I don’t practice because I am a gay man,” Sunnyside, Queens resident Joshua Buscher told CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge.

Buscher married his husband, Bryan, in 2014, three years after gay marriage was legalized in New York and eventually in all 50 states in 2015.

But many Christian churches are still not in agreement with same-sex unions.

“I know that it has been very hard for a lot of gay people in the church because of discrimination against us, but now, hopefully, they all take this on themselves and they use the words for the pope,” Buscher said.

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The term “same-sex civil union” grants most or all of the rights as marriage, without the title of marriage, which some churchgoers still feel is sacred.

“It shouldn’t be called ‘marriage.’ If you want to do what do you want to do, a union … but not marriage,” parishioner Mary O’Connor said.

Despite the departure of the church’s long-standing teachings, some parishioners at Queen of Angels Roman Catholic Church said they support Pope Francis’ position.

“We as human beings, I personally agree with what the pope says because I think all human beings have the same rights,” parishioner Lillian Liem said.

CBS2 reached out to the Archdiocese of New York and the Brooklyn Diocese. Officials said without seeing the complete film Francesco they could not comment.

Francesco the documentary premieres in North America on Sunday at the Savannah Film Festival.

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