Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie, once an opponent of same-sex marriage, said Thursday his views on the matter have shifted, citing the Vatican’s recent document on same-sex blessings as evidence that “even the Church is changing.”

“And so you know for me, it’s still, it was a process I had to go through to change the way I’ve been raised both from a family perspective and what my mother and father taught me and felt and also from a religious perspective and … what my Church taught me to believe,” Christie said at a town hall event in Epping, New Hampshire.

The former New Jersey governor continued: “[T]his past week or two Pope Francis is now allowing blessings of same-sex couples; even the Church is changing.” 

Christie, who identifies as Catholic, said: “Society has changed and what people are accepting in our country now is different than when I was growing up, certainly than when I was your age. And you know I don’t have any objection to it any longer. In the end, I think I’ve been convinced.”

Christie was the governor of New Jersey from January 2010 to January 2018. When running for governor in 2009, he supported civil unions in New Jersey but said he would veto any bill legalizing gay marriage. 

In 2013, Christie spoke out against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman. He called the ruling “a bad decision” and an example of “judicial supremacy.”

In 2015 he said that he thought legalizing gay marriage should be decided by individual states, according to the New York Times

Christie’s comments regarding Pope Francis and same-sex blessings are a reference to Fiducia Supplicans, a document from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith published Dec. 18.  

That declaration on Church doctrine said that “blessings are among the most widespread and evolving sacramentals” and that it is possible to give “blessings for couples in irregular situations and for couples of the same sex.”

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The declaration clearly states that the Church’s teaching on marriage between one man and one woman has not changed and emphasizes that such blessings should “never” occur within the ceremony of a civil union “and not even in connection with them” to avoid confusion or scandal.

The document has caused division among bishops across the world, with some criticizing the document and others welcoming it.

The former leader of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, said that any priest blessing a homosexual union would be committing a “sacrilegious and blasphemous act against the Creator’s plan and against Christ’s death for us.”

“Blessing a reality that is contrary to creation is not only impossible, it is blasphemy,” he said.

Catholic bishops’ conferences and bishops in Kazakhstan, Malawi, and Zambia are refusing to implement Fiducia Supplicans in their dioceses.

The head of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, said he is “grateful for the pastoral perspective [the declaration] takes,” which “points to the pastoral importance of a blessing that cannot be refused upon personal request.”

Christie is currently polling at 9% nationally in the Republican primary race, far behind the front-runner, former President Donald Trump, who is at 51% in the latest Rasmussen Reports poll.

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Christie has been doing the best in the early primary state of New Hampshire, where he has been polling around 10%, still far behind Trump and behind Nikki Haley.