Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) praised Pope Francis on Monday, after the pontiff suggested he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation.
The pope made the remarks during an impromptu 90-minute interview with reporters as he flew home from Brazil.
Asked how he would respond to finding out a cleric was openly gay but not sexually active, the pope responded: "Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?," according to reports.
"You can't marginalize these people," he added.
Pope Francis also dismissed questions about the presence of a "gay lobby" in the Vatican, but said that such a group would be an issue for the Catholic Church.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), an openly gay congressman, seized on that remark.