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THE contrast could not be more striking. The leader of the planet’s 1.2 billion Catholics spoke to society’s inclusive embrace of gays, with the question, “Who am I to judge?” No tags, no distinctions.

Pope Francis’ comments on Monday came in an airborne news conference with reporters as he headed home from Brazil.

Monday night, members of the hate-fueled Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., appeared at a Macklemore concert in Kansas City, Mo. to protest the song “Same Love,” about sexual equality and gay marriage.

Macklemore, Seattle’s homegrown rap star, wrote the song with Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert, and recorded it a year ago during the Referendum 74 campaign to legalize same-sex marriage.

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In a few careful but theologically expansive words, the pontiff moved his church ahead by centuries. Words of comfort for gay priests and expanded roles for women in the church, if not the priesthood.

In Argentina as a cardinal he is credited with working to promote civil unions for gays, if only to take pressure off the church for a full sacramental rite. Who can say how his papacy will evolve?

For the Westboro Baptist Church, the spurning of the biblical invocation to love thy neighbor continues into a third generation of the family enterprise.

Westboro takes its vulgar sentiments and displays to military funerals, and even to Joplin, Mo., to explain the town’s destruction by a tornado as God’s will.

Westboro haters even produced a parody version of Macklemore’s “Same Love” to “counter the Satan-inspired sodomite drivel with Bible truth.”

The pope knows his way around the sacred text and he is expressing its holy message.

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