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Marriages can only be between a man and a woman, but the Roman Catholic Church could tolerate some types of same-sex civil unions, Pope Francis said in a wide-ranging interview published Wednesday in an Italian newspaper.

The interview with Corriere della Sera, translated by the Catholic News Service, suggested that Francis viewed the unions as a practical way to protect property rights and access to health care.

"Matrimony is between a man and a woman," he said. But he added that efforts to "regulate diverse situations of cohabitation (are) driven by the need to regulate economic aspects."

The news service notes that a year ago the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family said some legal arrangements are justifiable to protect the inheritance rights of non-married couples.

But the news service says that Francis is the first pope to "indicate even tentative acceptance of civil unions."

The pope also dismissed his own popularity, saying a baseless mythology has grown up around him. He said he has continued his longtime practice of phoning people who write to him, but that rumors that he goes out at night and feeds the homeless are untrue.

"To portray the pope as a kind of superman, a type of star, strikes me as offensive," he said. "The pope is a man who laughs, weeps, sleeps soundly and has friends like everybody else. A normal person."

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