In the middle of wall-to-wall coverage of Covid-19, Pope Francis has made his own headlines by firing a theological grenade into the religious controversy about same-sex partnerships. He has, once again, underlined his loving humanity, which should challenge many conservatives in all Churches to question their attitudes about this deeply sensitive issue.
The Pope's words, in a recent film documentary, are worth studying: "Homosexual people ... are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way, they are legally covered. I stood up for that."
This is vintage Pope Francis, who has often stirred the theological pot and made liberal remarks contradicting theology without actually changing it. The Catholic Church - like the Reformed Churches - teaches that marriage is a life-long union between one man and one woman.
When Pope Francis said, "I stood up for that", he was being deadly serious. Some 17 years ago, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he wanted equality for people of whatever sexual orientation, provided they were in stable and loving relationships.
His recent comments are already drawing criticism from many, though not all, parts of the world. This is predictable. Any Church leader who tries to encourage new thinking from the conservative faithful will create opposition, much of it hostile.
Indeed, Francis has suffered sharp comments from his predecessor, Pope Benedict, who has breached his so-called "retirement" to make a remarkable defence of Catholic bishops who did not report child-sex abuse, or think it necessary to help the victims.
Pope Francis will have known that his remarks on civil partnerships would create controversy, but it is to his credit that he has the courage to speak out anyhow.
This is part of the burden, the challenge and, ultimately, the achievement of any great Church leader.
There is also the human dimension. Unlike the drily intellectual Pope Benedict, who never seemed at ease with crowds, the current Pope is a warm-hearted individual with great charisma.
This was evident a couple of years ago during his visit to Ireland, which I covered for this newspaper, and, although the crowds were much smaller than for the visit of Pope John Paul II, there was great Irish warmth for Pope Francis.
Though his initial speech in Dublin was weak on child abuse and was overshadowed by a masterly address from the then-Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, Pope Francis was greatly moved by the revelations, in a private meeting, of several people who had suffered clerical sexual abuse, including our own Fr Patrick McCafferty.
This is probably why, the next day, the Pope flummoxed the large media gathering in Phoenix Park - myself included - by suddenly reading out a handwritten statement couched in his native Spanish and not Italian, the official language for the visit. We could all see for ourselves that this was a leader who cared deeply as a human being.
This aspect of Francis' latest statement on civil partnerships is the most striking part of it. Here is a leader who shows his love for his fellow human beings and is not willing to be bound completely by the letter, rather than the spirit, of the law.
He is reminiscent of the founder of Christianity, who was compassionate about the sins of the flesh - as in the story about the woman taken in adultery - but searing about the sins of the spirit.
This is something which many other Catholic Christians and those in the Reformed Church should take to heart. The controversy among the Protestant Churches about same-sex relationships has been waging for many years, particularly since the American Episcopal Church, in 2004, unilaterally ordained Rev Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. He was the first openly gay cleric to be consecrated a Bishop.
Since then, the worldwide Anglican Church has been deeply divided on same-sex relationships, as is the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
In recent years, the Presbyterians have been involved in often harsh comments and, while the pandemic has almost literally driven the Churches indoors, this issue will not go away.
The Presbyterians, to be fair, are entitled to hold to their beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman, but it is the way in which their case has been argued, often appearing unloving, that has distressed people inside and outside the Church.
It is a supreme irony that the Pope may be showing the Presbyterians in Ireland - and very many others - how to approach this issue with greater kindness and understanding.
In all our Churches, which claim to be based on love, who could quarrel with the Pope's challenge that homosexuals "are children of God and have a right to a family" and that "Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable over it."
Francis has a message for all of us.
Alf McCreary is the Belfast Telegraph's religion correspondent