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Catholic leaders and observers of the Vatican witnessed "a major step forward" for the Catholic Church Wednesday after Pope Francis indicated his support for civil unions for same-sex couples, breaking with the church's long-held official teachings.

In the documentary "Francesco," which premiered at the Rome Film Festival Wednesday, the pope called for a "civil union law" to ensure gay and lesbian couples have the same legal rights as married straight couples.

"Homosexual people have a right to be in a family," he said in the film. "They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or made miserable over it."

Couples should be "legally covered" under a law allowing civil unions, Francis said, adding, "I stood up for that."

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